06/10/2010 11:00PM

Love That Dance defending


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Love That Dance had a solid foundation heading into last year's Open Mind Handicap: three starts against open company, including one in a graded stakes. She responded with a pacesetting win that turned her season around.

Now 4, Love That Dance is back on Saturday to defend her title in the $100,000 Open Mind for New Jersey-bred fillies and mares at six furlongs. This time, she will try to do it fresh. The Open Mind will be her first start since late November at the Meadowlands.

Love That Dance wintered in Ocala, Fla., and has been back with trainer Ben Perkins Jr. about three weeks.

"She looks fine and she's had a couple of good works," Perkins said.

Her latest drill was a sharp one: a four-furlong bullet in 47.60 on June 4.

Will that be enough to have Love That Dance ready to face eight rivals?

"You always think you'd like to have another good work in her," Perkins said. "She seems the same. She's not a big, heavy filly. She looked pretty fit when she came in."

Love That Dance will be reunited with Joe Bravo, who was aboard last year in the Open Mind.

The conditioning edge this year could swing to Way With Words, fifth in the Open Mind last year as the 11-10 favorite.

A 6-year-old trained at Laurel by Mary Eppler, Way With Words will be making her fifth start of the season. The last three were on the turf, including an overnight stakes win at Gulfstream Park and a sixth-place finish, beaten only 3 1/4 lengths, in the Grade 3 Gallorette Handicap at Pimlico.

Eddie Castro will be aboard Way With Words, who is 6-3-0 in 13 main-track races at Monmouth, including stakes wins last year in the Spruce Fir, Eleven North, and Politely.

Like Love That Dance, Love for Not will be making her season debut in this race. She was second in last year's Open Mind.

Dakota Doll also makes her first start of 2010. She closed out last year on a four-race winning streak, all against New Jersey breds.

Candy Eclair: Wide-open affair

Turf sprints tend to be wide-open scrambles and the $100,000 Candy Eclair for fillies and mares is no exception.

The 5 1/2 furlong race drew 12 runners, with Starfish Bay one of the most accomplished. A 4-year-old trained by Todd Pletcher, she was beaten only two lengths by the boys in the Grade 3 Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs in late April. She captured an overnight stakes last time out at Pimlico.

John Velazquez will ride.

Sandi's Ready will be cutting back in distance, having pressed the pace in a one-mile allowance before finishing fourth.

She gets a new rider, Francisco Maysonett.

"He worked her every time at Palm Meadows for the last two years," said trainer Cam Gambolati. "She's a little quirky. She gets out. He knows her better than anybody. She's just funny to ride."

As for this spot, Gambolati called it a "tough competitive race."

"I think the 5 1/2 furlongs is to her advantage," he said. "I think it's a perfect distance. It is a big difference from 5 to 5 1/2. You got a little bit more time to make your run."

Owner Michael Dubb sends out an entry of Candy Cane and Girlfrienontheside, both stakes winners last time out.