02/23/2006 1:00AM

Premier Dance returns to sprinting

Louis Hodges Jr.
Catonight, winning the Sugar Bowl in January, is one of the main threats to Premier Dance.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Last year, the $50,000 Mountain Valley Stakes launched the 3-year-old campaign of eventual Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex. This year, the six-furlong race represents a return to sprinting for one of the best young horses in the region, Premier Dance.

A five-time stakes winner, Premier Dance has made his last two starts around two turns. He won the $82,000 Eddy County at Zia Park on Nov. 25. In his last start, on Dec. 31, he was third in the $100,000 Diamond Jo at Evangeline Downs, a race in which he was favored over the winner, Lawyer Ron.

Before those starts, Premier Dance had won four straight sprint stakes, and his trainer, Cody Autrey, thinks he's best as a sprinter.

"I won't say we won't ever run him [two turns] again, but right now we are going to keep him sprinting," said Autrey, who trains Premier Dance for Charles Fletcher.

and Fidrych, the second- and third-place finishers in the $50,000 Dixieland at Oaklawn; and Corredor de Plata, who is 2 for 2.

Premier Dance will be making his first start after a two-month freshening, and he has been working at Louisiana Downs. His drills have been sharp, and he should be prominent Saturday.

"I think he'll be up close, because we worked him three-eighths from the gate the other day and I caught him in 34.80," Autrey said. "We just wanted to put some lick back in him, just to put some speed back in him since he's been routing. He doesn't have to be on the lead, but he'll be up close."

Cliff Berry has the mount Saturday.

First test for Music School

Music School will get his first class test Saturday in the $250,000 Southwest, although his class is quite evident from his demeanor, pedigree, and physical attributes. Still, the proof is in the doing, so as the 2-for-2 colt makes his stakes debut under Robby Albarado, his connections are taking nothing for granted in the face of more experienced rivals like Lawyer Ron.

"We're not going in there with any preconceived notions," said Neil Howard, who trains Music School. "We want to see him closing ground and galloping out good. Of course, we want to win it. Who doesn't? But you know at this point we're playing a little catch-up, so we want to see a good, strong race from him, take into consideration what Robby has to say after the fact, and go from there. We're going into this race very open-minded."

Music School has all the building blocks of a good horse. He is a son of top-class sire and stamina source A.P. Indy, and is closely related to 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft. He is also a professional on the racetrack, and has presence physically.

"He has a lot of assets," Howard said.

"I think one of the biggest is his demeanor. But he's a beautiful-moving colt. He's a very scopey-looking type of horse, and he has a lot of the things that you look for. And again, I think the biggest thing that he has going for him is his demeanor. He's a very smart horse."

Much of that demeanor is derived from genetics. Bred by his owners - Will Farish, James Elkins Jr., and Temple Webber Jr. - Music School is out of Delta Music, a stakes winner at seven furlongs by Dixieland Band. She is a source of speed for Music School.

"She was a big filly, a blocky filly, and he looks a little bit like her," said Howard, who trained Delta Music. "She also had a good demeanor. She was a very nice mare."

Delta Music earned $272,923 and is a half-sister to three other stakes winners, including Grade 1 winner Tomisue's Delight. Delta Music is also a half-sister to Mineshaft, and being good-minded is one of the traits that Music School shares with Mineshaft, who was trained by Howard.

"It's the whole family, the demeanor part," Howard said, "and Mineshaft was a good, fluent mover, and so is [Music School]."

Music School won his debut at 5 1/2 furlongs after stumbling badly, and in his most recent start he won his two-turn debut in a one-mile allowance. Saturday, the stakes get even more interesting for Music School.