05/14/2014 12:01PM

Hard to look past Daring Dancer in Hilltop Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
As long as rain does not force the Hilltop Stakes off the turf, Daring Dancer should be formidable in the race for 3-year-old fillies.

BALTIMORE – They might be saving the best, or at least the most obvious, until last at Pimlico on Friday.

Daring Dancer, unbeaten in three starts and a rising star in the 3-year-old filly turf division, looks like an absolute standout in the day’s 13th and final race, the $100,000 Hilltop Stakes.

Daring Dancer has been a daylight winner of all of her races so far, including a sharp victory in her 2014 debut, the Grade 3 Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland last month. Of the eight runners entered in the Hilltop, she is the only unrestricted stakes winner, let alone the only graded stakes winner. Many sequential bets will be banking on her running her win streak to four.

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There could be one very significant hurdle, though. The forecast for Friday here, according to The Weather Channel, is for heavy rain and thunderstorms. Daring Dancer’s three starts have been on courses rated firm or good, so she could have far different conditions this time.

As long as the race remains on the grass, she’s in, her trainer, Graham Motion, said Wednesday morning.

“I can’t imagine running her if they take it off the grass, but I can’t imagine them taking it off the grass,” Motion said.

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Daring Dancer won sprinting at Laurel in her debut, then defeated allowance runners at Churchill Downs going a mile. After a planned vacation, she closed stoutly to capture the Appalachian, also at one mile. The Hilltop will mark her first time going 1 1/16 miles, and Pimlico will be the fourth track at which she has competed.

“She hasn’t done much wrong,” Motion said. “I didn’t take her to Florida during the winter because it’s a long year. I wanted to have her ready for Keeneland in the spring.

“She’s done great since her last race,” Motion added. “We’ve always had this race in mind.”

The Hilltop is a means to an end. Motion said Daring Dancer is being pointed to the new Belmont Oaks, a $1 million, 1 1/4-mile grass race on July 5 at Belmont Park.

“That’s quite appealing,” Motion said. “It’s on our radar.”

The biggest threat to Daring Dancer is likely Lucky for You, who would be making her first start on turf and whose dirt form would make her the one to beat if the race comes off the grass and Daring Dancer is scratched. Lucky for You finished in a dead heat for second in the Sunland Oaks in her last start.