10/10/2001 11:00PM

Freshened favorite still sharp


EDMONTON, Alberta - Triple stakes winner Dance Me Free looms an overwhelming favorite in Saturday's $50,000 Canadian Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles at Northlands Park, but the colt's trainer, Sid Gray, is a little worried

"It's been six weeks since he last raced," Gray said. "I just hope that I did the right things."

One of them is his decision against shipping Dance Me Free to Vancouver for the Jack Diamond Futurity, which could have helped to fill in the gap between races for the colt.

"That would have been a long trip through the mountains," Gray said. "And besides, I heard that there was some virus out there. I think that I have kept him sharp."

Dance Me Free's last race was the $50,000 Birdcatcher at 6 1/2 furlongs, which he won by more than six lengths here Sept. 1. Before that, he won both the Edmonton Juvenile and the Sale Stakes.

Most of Dance Me Free's opponents Saturday ran in the Alberta Premier's Futurity, restricted to Alberta-breds, here on Sept. 22.

Exclusive Banker won that race by six lengths, while making his stakes debut. But this will be his first meeting with Dance Me Free.

Both Dance Me Free and Exclusive Baker won recent stakes on the front end, but the Canadian Juvenile marks be the first time that any horse in the field of nine will run 1 1/16 miles - so there may be changes in strategy.

Peter Wong rides Dance Me Free from post 7. Perry Winters rides Exclusive Banker from post 4.

Another contender is Crescent Remark, who ran second in the Futurity and then won an allowance race.

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