08/05/2004 11:00PM

Legit excuses for two


MIAMI - Excuses are a dime a dozen in this business, many of them more fiction than fact. But the two fillies, French Village and Tiz a Dancer, who will square off as the likely favorites in a field of six 3-year-old fillies in Sunday's $40,000 Snurb Stakes at Calder have legitimate excuses in their last start.

French Village finished a distant seventh in the Grade 3 Azalea Breeders' Cup Handicap on July 10, after which trainer Bill White discovered she had bled. A winner of 4 of her 5 previous starts, French Village opened her 3-year-old campaign with a convincing five-length victory over older horses, including the multiple stakes winners Petrina Above and Crafty Brat, on July 10.

French Village, the leading member of her division here last summer until a subpar performance in the My Dear Girl Stakes, has turned in a pair of bullet works in the four weeks since the Azalea, including a six-furlong breeze in 1:14.40 on Aug. 1. Abdiel Toribio will be aboard French Village, who is strictly the one to beat if she repeats any of her better efforts.

A slow start and wide trip cost Tiz a Dancer her best chance when she was beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Format under second-level allowance conditions over a wet track on July 19. Tiz a Dancer had an even bigger excuse earlier this season, clipping heels and losing her rider after overcoming early trouble to loom boldly near midstretch in the 1 1/16-mile Office Queen Stakes.

Format, who benefited from Tiz a Dancer's misfortune to post her second victory in her last three starts, continues to work brilliantly for trainer Julian Canet and demands respect. She is coming into the Snurb in the best form of her career.

Simply Fancy will be the one to catch Sunday, although she proved no match for either Tiz a Dancer or Format despite getting loose on an easy lead when the trio last met three weeks ago.

Clandestine has won 3 of her 5 career starts but finished off the board in both previous stakes opportunities. Family Favorite, an entry-level allowance winner in her last race, rounds out the compact lineup.

* Petrina Above, who bounced back from her second-place finish behind French Village in the Vague Memory Stakes to register an easy 3 3/4-length victory in the Barbs Dancer Stakes four weeks later, will likely be favored to handle a similar field in Monday's seven-furlong Little Sister Stakes.