06/18/2003 11:00PM

No rest for the streaking Dancewithavixen


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Tom Longstaff, who owns and trains Dancewithavixen, the likely favorite in next Saturday's Liberation Stakes, isn't afraid to gamble. He surprised a few people when he ran Dancewithavixen in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race last Saturday, only seven days after her second-place finish to Dee's Love in the Emerald Downs Handicap. Longstaff wanted to get a three-turn race into Dancewithavixen before the Liberation, and was hoping that she would have an easy time facing an overmatched field. He got exactly what he was looking for as she cruised to a dominating 4 3/4-length victory.

"It was a bit of a gamble," Longstaff said. "If she ran poorly, I would have looked like a fool running her back so quickly. But she was so full of herself following her last race that I didn't think it would hurt her."

Dancewithavixen certainly had the look of a horse who would handle a route, but you never know until they actually try to stretch out. Jockey Felipe Valdez said he was impressed with her performance.

"That was pretty easy," he said. "Tom told me to let her do it on her own and that's basically what happened. She's been a pretty good sprinter, but she'll be an even better horse going long."

Valdez high on Steady Smiler

Valdez had a big day Saturday, winning four races. One of his wins was with a very promising 3-year-old, Steady Smiler, who won his maiden by 7 1/2 lengths in his first attempt at a route. Steady Smiler will take on stakes horses in the $75,000 Burnaby Breeders' Cup, which also is run next Saturday. It begins the Festival of Racing, which includes the $40,000 Brighouse Belles for fillies and mares on Sunday, and culminates on Canada Day, July 1, with the $100,000 Grade 3 Lieutenant Gov-ernors' for older horses.

Valdez said he was very pleased by Steady Smiler's performance.

"He could be a good one," Valdez said. "By the time we hit the quarter pole he was just galloping."

Steady Smiler showed plenty of potential as a 2-year-old, finishing second in the CTHS Sales Stakes and third in the New Westminster.

"I was pretty sure he would blossom when they stretched out," said his owner and trainer Rob Maybin. "I didn't think he would do it that easily though. There's really no place else to run him, so we'll give him a shot in the Burnaby."

Although he still is eligible for a nonwinners of two, he could be one of the favorites in the Burnaby. The local leader of the division, Gamblin Caper, is doubtful, according to his trainer Terry Jordan.

"It's just a bit too soon for him," Jordan said.

Gamblin Caper ran second to Taisalew in the Alberta Derby last weekend. "I've nominated him, but right now I'm not really considering it," Jordan said.

Stratoplan gained some needed seasoning with a good second-place finish to older Manitoba Stakes-winner Ekati in a three-turn allowance race last Sunday, and should receive plenty of support when he runs back with 3-year-olds in the Burnaby. It was his first try at a route and only his fourth lifetime start.

"He's still a kid," trainer Robert VanOverschot said. "He got a lot out of that race, though, and gradually he's becoming a seasoned racehorse."

Lord Nelson will be a heavy favorite to win the Grade 3, 1 1/8-mile Lieutenant Governors' for the second year in a row. Other than Lord Nelson, the stakes division at Hastings appears weak. The winner of the most recent added-money event, the John Longden 6,000, was Let's Go Rusty. The most important win in his career before the Longden was in a starter allowance race in 2001.

Lord Nelson and Let's Go Rusty are both trained by Dino Condilenios, and he had nothing but praise for Let's Go Rusty.

"I don't want to compare him to Lord Nelson," he said. "He ran a very gutsy race to win the Longden and he'll certainly appreciate the extra distance in the Lieutenant Governors'."