06/19/2002 11:00PM

Snow Dance rarely fails


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Snow Dance is on the longest losing streak of her grass-racing career: all of two races.

The consistent Snow Dance has won 6 of 10 turf starts, but she was beaten by an ultra-game Tates Creek in April, then finished fifth in the ultra-tough Vanity last month.

Trainer John T. Ward Jr. has said all year that the main goal for Snow Dance is the Aug. 18 Beverly D. at Arlington, so the filly figures to have two more starts before then. The first figures as a stern test, as Snow Dance will meet eight other filly-mare turf specialists Saturday in a wide-open 21st running of the $150,000 Locust Grove Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Snow Dance, owned by John C. Oxley, lost her first four career starts on dirt, but then won four in a row after Ward began spotting her on grass. The Locust Grove, a Grade 3 race at 1 1/8 miles, will mark her ninth straight start in graded company, a streak that testifies to her quality and obviously overshadows the modest losing skein that she currently has going.

Clearly the main challengers are Voodoo Dancer, the 120-pound highweight, and Megans Bluff, whose fondness of the Churchill turf cannot be overstated.

Voodoo Dancer ships in from New York for Christophe Clement, who is widely regarded as possibly the best young grass trainer in North America today.

Megans Bluff has won three stakes from just four starts at Churchill, her only defeat coming in the Locust Grove last year, when she was third behind Colstar and Solvig.

Churchill pick four

The Churchill tracks will join Saturday in offering fans throughout North America a four-race wager known as the CDSN pick four.

The bet is scheduled to begin with the 10th race from Churchill at 5:51 p.m. Eastern and end with the fifth at Hollywood (post, 6:19).

Takeout on the $1 minimum wager is 19 percent. The bet also will be offered June 29, July 6, and July 20.

* The lowest pick four payoff in track history occurred here Wednesday after favorites swept the first four races, leading to a $14.30 payoff for a $1 bet.

* With simulcast wagering up 3 percent at Ellis Park this year, according to general manager Paul Kuerzi, $500,000 has been allocated for capital improvements before the track begins its 41-day season July 10.