01/24/2009 12:00AM

Soldier's Dancer comes through


ARCADIA, Calif. - On his way to becoming a millionaire, Soldier's Dancer has raced on all types of turf courses. His experience on rain-soaked surfaces was vital to his win in Saturday's $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf at Santa Anita.

Racing on a course rated good and soaked by several hours of light rain, Soldier's Dancer ($4.80) rallied from last in a field of 13 to win the richest race of his career.

It was not until Soldier's Dancer loomed alongside Presious Passion in the final sixteenth that he looked like a winner. Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Soldier's Dancer ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.64 in the first of four stakes restricted to California-breds and Florida-breds run Saturday at Santa Anita.

Unusual Suspect, a 53-1 outsider, finished third, beaten 1 3/4 lengths. Soldier's Dancer and Presious Passion are Florida-breds; Unusual Suspect was bred in California.

Liberian Freighter led through an early pace of 23.76 and 47.29 seconds, closely followed by the longshot Victory Pete. At that point, Soldier's Dancer was last, trailing by 14 lengths.

Victory Pete took the lead from Liberian Freighter briefly in the stretch, but was passed by Presious Passion.

Soldier's Dancer began to pass horses at the end of the backstretch. On the final turn, Bejarano urged Soldier's Dancer closer to the front and got an immediate response.

Racing wide on the turn, Soldier's Dancer closed significant ground, but with a furlong remaining he was still seventh, though closing well. Soldier's Dancer took over with 30 yards remaining.

"I always felt comfortable because I knew I had a lot of horse," Bejarano said. "I made a move from the five-eighths pole to the half-mile to get my position. After that, he started running, and he has a big kick."

Owned by Herman Heinlein and trained by David Vivian, Soldier's Dancer earned $275,000, improving his career earnings to $1,227,480.

A 5-year-old gelding by Lost Soldier, Soldier's Dancer has won 10 of 28 starts, and eight stakes. Soldier's Dancer has won stakes on yielding turf courses twice in the last 18 months, and the Grade 3 Miami Mile on a firm course at Calder last fall.