08/31/2009 11:00PM

Join in the Dance drills for Pa. Derby

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Barbara D. Livingston
Join in the Dance will be making his second start since the Kentucky Derby in Monday's Grade 2, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The Pennsylvania Derby may not have Grade 1 status or the prestige of the Travers, but it does have the same $1 million purse and will attract several 3-year-olds based at Saratoga to Philadelphia Park on Labor Day, including the Todd Pletcher-trained pair of Join in the Dance and Denver and Steve Asmussen's West Virginia Derby winner Soul Warrior.

Both Join in the Dance and Soul Warrior turned in their final preps for the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby here on a chilly Tuesday morning. Join in the Dance worked five furlongs in 1:02.26 over the main track, and Soul Warrior put in a more leisurely half-mile in 50.20 seconds a couple of hours earlier at the Oklahoma training track.

Join in the Dance, runner-up to Musket Man in the , will be making his second start since finishing a tiring seventh after setting the pace in the Kentucky Derby. In his return, Join in the Dance finished second behind the highly regarded Girolamo going seven furlongs under second-level allowance conditions here Aug. 2.

"He had a little infection in a hind ankle after the Derby," Pletcher said. "I thought he ran well in his return. He just got outrun by an awfully nice horse."

Pletcher said John Velazquez will be aboard Join in the Dance in the Pennsylvania Derby.

Denver will make his first start since finishing a distant third behind Our Edge in the at Delaware Park on July 19.

Soul Warrior upset Big Drama and Mine That Bird to win the four weeks earlier. Soul Warrior was ridden to victory that day by Dale Beckner, a last-minute replacement for Miguel Mena, who missed his flight to Mountaineer Park that morning. Beckner was slated to ride Soul Warrior back in the Pennsylvania Derby but he's been sidelined indefinitely after suffering severe injuries in a riding mishap last Friday at Presque Isle. Asmussen confirmed late Monday that Robby Albarado would ride Soul Warrior in the Pennsylvania Derby.

According to the Philadelphia Park racing office, the field for the Pennsylvania Derby as of Tuesday also may include Bunker Hill, Despite the Odds, Duke of Mischief, Gone Astray, Kelly Leak, Retriever, and Endymion.

Platinum eyes jump to Cotillion

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens is excited about his promising 3-year-old filly Platinum, who posted her third straight one-sided victory here Monday in the Mollie Wilmot overnight stakes.

"She had a fracture high in behind," said Jerkens when asked why Platinum did not begin her career until May. "She made her first start for Jose Fernandez at Churchill Downs and was ready to go when she came to me. It was nice to get a little black type into her today, even if it was a little rinky-dink stakes, just in case something happens. Now, we'll look for something better, maybe the Cotillion at Philadelphia Park. That's a big jump, but she's got a lot of talent."

Maram works toward Garden City

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Maram worked five furlongs in 1:03 over the main track Tuesday, with the Grade 1 Garden City at Belmont Park on Sept. 12 her next goal. Maram won an overnight stakes here earlier in the session in her only start since the 2008 Breeders' Cup.

"She missed some training and her work schedule got pushed back due to some rain here earlier this summer, but she looks great," trainer Chad Brown said. "All is well, and we're still hoping to make the Garden City with her. As for returning to the Breeders' Cup, I'm not looking that far ahead just yet. Let's see if she can get a mile and one eighth first before we think about anything beyond that."

Dominguez, Castellano riding hot streaks

Jockeys Ramon Dominguez and Javier Castellano are both entering the final week of the meet red-hot. Dominguez opened a six-victory lead over Alan Garcia at the end of Monday's program in quest of his first Saratoga riding title after posting a pair of four-baggers last week, while Castellano won three stakes, including the Grade 1 King's Bishop aboard Capt. Candyman Can on Travers Day.

"I'm not counting my chickens before they hatch, because we still have a week to go, but it would mean a lot to me to win the title at Saratoga," said Dominguez whose most important victory this summer came not at Saratoga but aboard Gio Ponti in the Arlington Million.

Castellano has come on with a rush following a slow start during the opening half of the meet. Castellano followed his stakes hat trick Saturday with two more wins Sunday and another Monday, giving him 22 for the meet which placed him in a deadlock for fifth in the standings with Velazquez entering the final week of the session.

"We got off to a slow start, but that happens sometimes when you make a change," said Castellano referring to the fact he hired Matt Muzikar to handle his riding engagements earlier this summer. "Everything is going forward now, and I think the success I've had recently will give trainers a lot more confidence in me and build my momentum for when we return to Belmont Park."

Rice, Pletcher battle for trainer's title

While Dominguez held a comfortable advantage in the jockey standings heading into the final week of the meet, the trainer race was up for grabs, with Todd Pletcher and Linda Rice tied for the lead with 15 wins apiece entering Wednesday's card.

For Pletcher, winning the title would be old hat, but for Rice, coming out on top would be very special.

"It's very exciting just to be in this position," Rice said. "It would be a real honor and a real thrill if I could win the title, and I plan to be a little more aggressive entering horses here the last few days to try to win this thing."

Rice has horses entered in three races Thursday and six of the nine races on Friday's card. Pletcher countered with six of his own Thursday and four more the following afternoon.

Smart Seattle steps up in P.G. Johnson

Trainer Graham Motion, who will run Whitney winner Bullsbay in Saturday's Grade 1 Woodward, also is excited about the prospect of starting his unbeaten 2-year-old filly Smart Seattle in Thursday's P.G. Johnson Stakes going 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Smart Seattle, an Augustin Stable homebred by Smart Strike, was an impressive debut winner going 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass three weeks earlier.

"She was pretty impressive the first time, but it's a big step up off a maiden win, especially stretching from 5 1/2 furlongs to a mile and one-sixteenth," Motion said. "But her pedigree is all about two turns, so I think she'll handle it."