11/15/2008 1:00AM

She's not on her home turf this time


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Apples to apples, Callwood Dancer should have the edge Saturday in the $100,000 Cardinal Handicap at Churchill Downs. Her Beyer Speed Figures are superior to those of her nine opponents in the Grade 3 turf race, and a runner-up finish in a Grade 1 race last month speaks loudly to her class and recency.

But there is at least one obvious variable that says to proceed with caution before proclaiming Callwood Dancer a standout in the Cardinal for trainer Roger Attfield. And that is, with all but one of her last 16 starts having come at her home track, Woodbine in Canada, doesn't shipping into unknown territory make her vulnerable as the highweight and morning-line favorite?

"She could be," said Helen Pitts, who will try to beat Callwood Dancer with Meribel. "But Roger really has a nice filly, and some of the other invaders look tough in there, too."

Callwood Dancer was assigned 122 pounds and post 5 for the 1 1/8-mile Cardinal, which goes as the ninth of 10 races at Churchill. Attfield, a Canadian legend, assumed her training after just two starts in England, and the filly has flourished under his care, amassing nearly $700,000 in earnings.

Callwood Dancer will be ridden by Eurico Rosa Da Silva, whose last foray to this state resulted in two wins from as many mounts on the Kentucky Cup program at Turfway Park.

Other notable shippers in the Cardinal include Lady Digby and Long Approach, both in from Maryland for Graham Motion and Jonathan Sheppard, respectively, and Ciao, in from Chicago for Frank Kirby.

As for the locals, Meribel and Ballymore Lady each won a turf allowance at Keeneland in her last start, and either appears capable of a mild upset.

Meribel, said Pitts, is "as good as since I've had her," a period of about six months. "She's a classy mare. I'm just hoping to get to Saturday with her because she's been that tough to hold on the ground. That last win really picked her head up."

Meribel will start from post 2 and will be ridden by Robby Albarado, who will be honored Saturday when Churchill gives away souvenir glasses with his image imprinted on them.

One longshot possibility in the 35th Cardinal is Sousaphone, an Ohio-bred trained by Michelle Nihei, a former longtime Todd Pletcher employee. Sousaphone won a turf allowance here in June.