10/04/2004 11:00PM

Hong Kong Dancer vs. elders


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Hong Kong Dancer, one of the more talented 3-year-old fillies at Woodbine, faces older rivals while returning from a layoff in Thursday's headliner, a $62,500 optional claimer.

Hong Kong Dancer captured her first two starts by a combined total of nearly 15 lengths in the spring. She won her May 1 debut with authority, running six furlongs in a quick 1:09.60 and earning a Beyer Figure of 85 in a $50,000 optional maiden race.

Three weeks later, in an entry-level allowance, Hong Kong Dancer proved her opener wasn't a fluke. She raced prominently in that 1 1/16-mile race before drawing off in the stretch, and was credited with an 88 Beyer.

Hong Kong Dancer was bet down to 5-2 in the $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks, in which she was rated just off a slow pace by regular rider Rui Pimentel. She began to retreat on the far turn and ended up a distant fourth behind Eye of the Sphynx, Touchnow, and My Vintage Port.

Hong Kong Dancer hasn't run since the June 13 Oaks, but has been working regularly for trainer Reade Baker, who said she had a problem prior to the race.

"She pulled a muscle in behind 10 days before the Oaks," Baker said. "We tried to patch her up, but she wasn't right coming out of the Oaks. Obviously, we should never have run her. We gave her plenty of time, and she's pretty close to being spot-on."

Hollywood Ending, Huntingthetruth, and Piersixer are among the other entrants in the seven-furlong feature.

Hollywood Ending has won 3 of 11 outings this year for trainer Lorne Richards, who has scored with 30 percent of his starters at the meeting.

A versatile 6-year-old, Hollywood Ending won two in a row in the summer, including a 6 1/2-furlong event for $50,000 claimers on the main track. Most recently, she was second as the favorite in a six-furlong turf dash at the $62,500 classification.

Huntingthetruth has been a profitable claim by trainer Justin Nixon, who took her from a win for $40,000 in June. She beat $50,000 and $62,500 opposition in her next two starts, and is coming off a runner-up placing.

Piersixer is seeking her third consecutive triumph, and will have to step it up a notch in order to get the job done. She defeated Ontario-sired allowance company in her next-to-last race, and was recently victorious in an open preliminary allowance at seven furlongs.