10/23/2003 11:00PM

F&M Turf: Voodoo Dancer: Consistently amazing


ARCADIA, Calif. - When it comes to the horses he trains, Christophe Clement is a man of few words. He needed only one when asked to describe Voodoo Dancer.


Clement is hoping Voodoo Dancer will give him his first Breeders' Cup victory when he sends out the 5-year-old daughter of Kingmambo in Saturday's $1 million Filly and Mare Turf.

"She's amazing because she even overcomes me," quipped Clement, whose wry sense of humor belies his passion and dedication to his craft. "She is a very unique horse. She has an explosive turn of foot and is incredibly consistent. I've never trained a filly like her."

Consistent is right. Voodoo Dancer has held her form remarkably well throughout her three-year career, despite traveling from track to track and coast to coast against the highest level of competition.

Voodoo Dancer brings an 11-for-20 record into the Breeders' Cup. She has finished worse than third just three times, with one of those poor efforts coming in her career debut, when she raced for the only time on dirt. Nine of her 11 victories have been in stakes races and seven of them in graded events, including two Grade 1 wins. She has earned more than $1.4 million for owner Dimitros Katsaras's Green Hills Farm.

"The only time she really ran a bad race on turf was in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes," Clement said. "She really wasn't doing as well as I'd have liked going into the race, but it was the last Grade 1 of the year for 3-year-olds and we thought we'd give it a try. In addition, the ground at Keeneland was a little on the softer side and not to her liking. Fortunately the rider [Corey Nakatani] didn't abuse her when he realized she wasn't at her best."

Voodoo Dancer finished seventh in the 2001 QEII, beaten five lengths by a field that included Affluent, Golden Apples, and Snow Dance. She has not been off the board in 10 subsequent starts, posting Beyer Speed Figures between 101 and 106 in nine of those 10 races.

In fact, with a little better racing luck, and a little less Tates Creek, Voodoo Dancer could have added at least two more graded wins to her resume in 2002. She was beaten a nose by Tates Creek in Saratoga's Grade 2 Diana Handicap and a neck by her nemesis in Santa Anita's Grade 2 Las Palmas Handicap. She also fell a length short of upsetting Golden Apples in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon just three weeks before the 2002 Breeders' Cup at Arlington Park.

Clement opted to hold Voodoo Dancer out of last year's World Thoroughbred Championships because of her inability to handle anything other than firm ground.

"I thought the chances were good the course would not be to her liking," Clement said.

Clement's inclination proved correct, as the grass course came up yielding at Arlington on Breeders' Cup Day.

On Saturday, Voodoo Dancer will have an opportunity to turn the tables on Tates Creek. Voodoo Dancer did get a measure of revenge earlier this season when she outgamed Heat Haze, Tates Creek's stablemate, to win the 2003 Diana with a performance that was arguably the best of her career. Unfortunately, Voodoo Dancer came out of the race with a sinus infection that forced her to miss her final prep for the Filly and Mare Turf, Belmont's Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational.

"The Diana was really a spectacular race," Clement said. "The pace was slow, yet she managed to finish on top of some very good horses who were also finishing well."

Clement has had two near misses in the Breeders' Cup, beginning with Coretta, who was run down in late stretch by Soaring Softly in the inaugural Filly and Mare Turf at Gulfstream Park in 1999. He suffered a similar fate two years later, when Forbidden Apple could not withstand the closing surge of Val Royal after gaining a clear lead near midstretch in the Mile.

"Obviously I wish I could have already won a Breeders' Cup," said Clement. "But I'm very excited about running Voodoo Dancer on Saturday. It's going to be a very competitive race, but I think I'm sending down a very live outsider. And I'll be able to enjoy myself because I won't have much pressure on me, since I don't have either the first or second choices in the race."