10/11/2011 2:31PM

Keeneland: Return to races for Dancinginherdreams

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Barbara D. Livingston
Dancinginherdreams, with Julien Leparoux riding, wins the 2010 Pocahontas.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Expectations were unlimited for Dancinginherdreams after the distinctive-looking gray filly won the first two races of her career in spectacular fashion last fall, starting with a maiden sprint at the 2010 Keeneland fall meet. Those high hopes went unmet in the months that followed, leading trainer John T. Ward Jr. to go back to the proverbial drawing board with her.

The results of those months of work will start being revealed Thursday at Keeneland, when Dancinginherdreams returns to action in the seventh race, a $54,000, second-level allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs over Polytrack.

After romping in her Keeneland debut, then the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs in November, the 3-year-old Dancinginherdreams turned in three straight disappointments, all in graded company, ending with a last-place finish in the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes here in April.

“Nobody was satisfied with the way she performed as we tried to make the [Kentucky] Oaks with her, so we decided to back off on her,” said Ward, who trains Dancinginherdreams for longtime client John Oxley. “She had a knee that had started to plague her, so we gave her time. We also made some variations that affected her digestive system in a positive way, and she’s been training very well. She’s matured, looks good, and she’s been very healthy.

“We’re starting back with no plan, unlike last year when we had to hit all the right notes to try to make the Oaks. Now she gets to go out there and tell us what she wants to do and how she does it best.”

Dancinginherdreams, with Julien Leparoux to ride, is assigned post 4 in a field of 12 fillies and mares.

Dancinginherdreams isn’t the only other stakes winner of note set to race Thursday in allowance company at Keeneland. Ravi’s Song, unraced since finishing second in the Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth Park in late July, comes off four solid works at Churchill and is likely to be favored in the second race, a $60,000 classified allowance at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Corey Lanerie rides for trainer Carl Bowman.

QE II shaping up royally

Keeneland racing officials are expecting an outstanding field of 3-year-old fillies for the last Grade 1 of the meet, the $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup on Saturday. Winter Memories, the standout gray filly trained by Jimmy Toner, arrived here Monday from New York as the biggest name for the 1 1/8-mile turf race.

Winter Memories, off her eye-catching victory in the Grade 1 Garden City at Belmont Park last month, likely will be favored over Together and Summer Soiree in a lineup also expected to include Kathmanblu, Marketing Mix, More Than Real, Nereid, and Star Billing.

The Saturday card also will include the $125,000 Keeneland 75th Anniversary Stakes, which is designed as a prep for the new Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint. Entries for Saturday were to be drawn Wednesday.

Sassy Image breezes

Sassy Image had her first work since her disappointing effort in the Aug. 27 Ballerina Stakes when breezing a half-mile Saturday in 48.60 seconds over a fast Churchill track. A two-time Grade 1 winner this year, the 4-year-old filly is being pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

“Obviously she wasn’t herself in the Ballerina, but the good thing is she’s back healthy,” said trainer Dale Romans. “If everything keeps going well, I’ll just keep working her every Saturday up to the race.”

Sassy Image finished a distant last of six in the Ballerina, run over a sloppy Saratoga track.

◗ An oversubscribed pack of filly-mare turf sprinters has been entered in the featured ninth of 10 Friday races, the $100,000 Franklin County Stakes. Among the top names are Salty Strike, Suzzona, and Rose Catherine.

◗ Keeneland is reporting that ontrack attendance for the first three days of the meet totaled 60,379, third-highest for the time frame since 2001, when the track began opening the fall meet on a Friday.

◗ Retired Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day turns 58 on Thursday. Born in Brush, Colo., Day is by far the all-time leading jockey at Keeneland in virtually every major category, including most wins (918), stakes wins (95), and riding titles (22). Day, who lives in the Lake Forest community in the east end of Louisville, retired in 2005.