10/17/2001 11:00PM

From Manitoba to the Classic


ARCADIA, Calif. - The post parade for next Saturday's $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic should be quite a show. One by one, they will emerge from the Belmont Park grandstand tunnel into the bright autumn afternoon, an all-star cast that will include the defending Classic champion and reigning Horse of the Year, the star of the Emirates World Series, the hero of the Epsom Derby, the overpowering winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup and - what's this? - the horse who won the 1998 Manitoba Derby.

If they all stick to character, he's the one who'll be hogging the pre-race spotlight. A Fleets Dancer, the pride of central Canada, is a flamboyant chestnut stallion who could care less that his odds for the Classic are sky high. As far as he's concerned, there is no other horse on earth.

"He's got a ton of personality, this horse," said his owner, Cam Allard. "You have to be very careful around him. He likes to do things his own way. We can't send a pony with him in the post parade, because he's got to be alone. And if he's at his best, you'll see him bucking and playing all the way to the post."

Allard should know. He pin-hooked A Fleets Dancer as a yearling in 1996 then took him home unsold after the bidding fell short of a $240,000 reserve at the 1997 Barretts sale of 2-year-olds. Thirty-five starts and more than $900,000 later, A Fleets Dancer officially qualifies as one of those who got away.

Now he is taking Allard, 58, to his first Breeders' Cup as an owner. It's not like he needs the diversion. His JCA Financial is involved in all manner of real estate developments from its base in Edmonton, where the Allard name has about the same clout as Kennedy does in greater Boston.

Allard's father, Dr. Charles Allard, was one of Alberta's leading business lights during a career that embraced medicine, oil and gas, banking, multi-media, sports, and entertainment, just to name a few of his many endeavors. He also helped build schools and hospitals, although some would contend that by establishing the Edmonton Oilers - and therefore enabling Wayne Gretzky - Charles Allard contributed more than his fair share to the betterment of mankind.

Cam Allard has been involved in horse racing for about 10 years. He takes particular pleasure in the successful pin-hook - buying low and selling well - and he made headlines in 1999 when he sold a $220,000 yearling for $2 million as a 2-year-old just six months later. The price equaled a record at the time.

Allard said A Fleets Dancer failed to sell, back in '97, because of a skin rash. Beauty, in his case, was considerably more than skin deep. In the spring of 1998, he won his maiden for John Kimmel at Aqueduct, then spent the summer with Rod Cone in central Canada, winning the Manitoba Derby at Assinobia Downs and the Canadian Derby at Northlands Park in Edmonton.

Roger Attfield, the trainer of three Canadian Triple Crown winners, entered the picture in the fall of 1998, and A Fleets Dancer became a Woodbine horse. This year, as a fully matured 6-year-old, he has hit his stride, earning his way into the Classic with solid U.S. efforts behind Guided Tour in the Washington Park Handicap and the Kentucky Cup Classic, and behind Aptitude in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap.

"He ran a really nice race in Toronto the other day," Allard said, referring to a five-length win in the Oct. 7 Durham Cup at Woodbine. "It was one of his better races, even though the speed rating wouldn't necessarily indicate that. So we're going to take a shot.

"Roger played a big part in the decision to go," Allard added. "I didn't push him in any direction at all. He's quite comfortable in taking the shot. And Roger's record in the Breeders' Cup is pretty good, even though he hasn't won it yet."

Attfield has had seconds in the Sprint and the Turf, a third in the Juvenile Fillies, and a third with Whiskey Wisdom in the 1997 Classic. He was disqualified to fourth. Afleet, the sire of A Fleets Dancer, was up the track in the 1987 Classic but a game third in the 1988 Sprint.

Since it's hard to turn around in Edmonton and not find the Allard name connected with some form of civic or commercial achievement, it is no surprise that Cam Allard will be leading a large contingent of friends and family to New York in support of A Fleets Dancer. Allard's memories of the Breeders' Cups he has attended are mostly pleasant, especially the Classic held at Woodbine in 1996.

"I did bet on Alphabet Soup," he said. "But it was because one of the best horses I had was a Cozzene [sire of Alphabet Soup], so I can't say it was pure handicapping that got me there."

Alphabet Soup was nearly 20-1 against Cigar. Come next Saturday, A Fleets Dancer could be twice that and more against Galileo, Aptitude, Fantastic Light, and Tiznow, as his owner carries the hopes of Canada in the World Thoroughbred Championships.

"Oh, no, I'm just going to be carrying my own," Allard said. "And it will be pretty special, just waiting to see if he runs his race and kicks in. That will be the exciting part - or the disappointing part."