10/03/2012 1:17PM

Penn National: Ann's Smart Dancer steps up into stakes company off claim

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Ann's Smart Dancer won 5 of 8 starts in 2011, including the Dr. Teresa Garofalo Memorial.

Ann’s Smart Dancer was the feel-good story of 2011 in the Mid-Atlantic region, winning 5 of 8 starts, including three consecutive stakes restricted to Pennsylvania-breds. So far in 2012, however, Ann’s Smart Dancer has fizzled rather than sizzled.

Winless in six starts, Ann’s Smart Dancer will try to regain her good form when she makes her first start for new connections in Friday night’s $75,000 Ligature Stakes for Pennsylvania-bred fillies and fillies at Penn National.

Bred and formerly owned by a family partnership headed by longtime public handicapper Craig Donnelly, Ann’s Smart Dancer was named in honor of Donnelly’s late first wife. Her brilliant 3-year-old season was highlighted by a 5 1/4-length win in the six-furlong Power by Far at Parx with a career-best 88 Beyer Speed Figure.

In her first five races this season, however, Ann’s Smart Dancer failed to finish better than fourth or record a Beyer higher than 69, including an eighth-place finish with a 59 Beyer as the defending champion in the Power by Far. Following a change in barns, Ann’s Smart Dancer showed renewed vigor when she dueled for the lead before weakening late to finish third, beaten a length, while improving her Beyer to 71.

Claimed that day for $16,000 by trainer Donald White on behalf of White Owl Stable, Ann’s Smart Dancer will try to move forward in the six-furlong Ligature while returning to the statebred ranks. One encouraging sign is that White is 5 for 17 (29 percent) first time off the claim.

Among the other eight fillies and mares, Jonathan’s Girl, Lenape Rim, and Interrogate look the most dangerous.

Jonathan’s Girl, seventh over a sloppy track in the Power by Far, comes off a win over open-company second-level optional $25,000 claimers. The only time she faced statebreds on a fast track, Jonathan’s Girl scored by 1 1/4 lengths.

Lenape Rim, 5 for 11 at Penn National, cuts back from 1 1/16 miles to six furlongs following a runner-up finish in the Mrs. Penny Handicap. Trainer Mike Salvaggio is 8 for 33 (24 percent) with route-to-sprint runners.

Interrogate returns to dirt following 3 wins in 5 starts over the Tapeta at Presque Isle Downs. She takes a distinct class drop from the Grade 2 Presque Isle Masters. Finger Lakes-based trainer Michael Ferraro is 7 for 33 (21 percent) with sprinters switching from synthetic surfaces to dirt.