11/08/2008 12:00AM

Soldier's Dancer defends home turf


MIAMI - Soldier's Dancer may be half Silver Tree's age, but he figures to give the 8-year-old all he can handle when the pair meet for the second time this season in Saturday's $150,000 Bonnie Heath Turf Cup Handicap at Calder.

The matchup between Soldier's Dancer and Silver Tree makes the 1 1/8-mile Bonnie Heath Turf Cup Handicap the marquee event on Saturday's Florida Million program, which features eight stakes restricted to Florida-breds and also includes the $200,000 Carl G. Rose Handicap for older horses on the main track.

The 4-year-old Soldier's Dancer has won 3 of his last 4 starts, a streak that began with a 1 1/4-length victory over Silver Tree in Tampa Bay Downs's Turf Classic on April 5. Soldier's Dancer also captured Philadelphia Park's President's Cup and most recently the Grade 3 Miami Mile Handicap over his home course at Calder. His lone setback since February came in his return from a four-month vacation when he finished second over the main track in the Band Is Passing Stakes.

Soldier's Dancer will try to wipe out the memory of perhaps the toughest beat of his career, a nose setback at the hands of three-time Bonnie Heath winner Revved Up in the 2007 edition of the race. Soldier's Dancer will carry high weight of 122 pounds, one pound more than Silver Tree, in the Bonnie Heath.

"I wish he wasn't coming," said Soldier's Dancer's trainer, Dave Vivian, referring to Silver Tree. He "is obviously going to be a tough horse, but being here probably gives me the advantage. The distance should help, too. He was in front of me at Tampa, and I ran by him at the end. I don't think Silver Tree was quite as good then as he is now, but my horse is doing awfully well at the moment, too."

The ageless Silver Tree is in the midst of another big year for owner Peter Vegso and trainer Bill Mott. The homebred son of Hennessy has banked more than $250,000 from just six starts in 2008, with victories in both the Grade 3 Fort Marcy Handicap and Oceanport Stakes. With a win in the Bonnie Heath, Silver Tree would nearly match his production as a 7-year-old in 2007, when he won four times and earned more than $345,000 of a career bankroll that is now approaching $1.8 million.

Silver Tree is no stranger to Calder, having registered a win and two seconds over the local course, although has not started locally since winning the Grade 3 Tropical Turf Handicap during winter 2005. He also was second behind Revved Up one month earlier that year in the Bonnie Heath.

Magic Mecke is the third member of the field to be victimized by Revved Up during his incredible string of three straight Bonnie Heath victories, finishing second in this event in 2006.

It's a Bird is cross-entered in both the Bonnie Heath and the 1 1/8-mile Carl G. Rose Classic. But trainer Marty Wolfson said that even if the Bonnie Heath should come off the grass due to rain, he'll likely keep the vastly improved It's a Bird in the Carl Rose.

It's a Bird has won each of his last three starts, including the Grade 3 Spend a Buck Handicap over the odds-on Gottcha Gold on Oct. 18. Those three victories came at distances ranging from a mile to a 1 1/2 miles.

"If you look back on his form, he always really liked this track, and I think that's part of the reason he's gotten so good lately," said Wolfson, who trains It's a Bird for owner Edmund Gann. "Actin Good looks like the horse to beat, but we really have the home-court advantage over this track."

It's a Bird will carry high weight of 120 pounds, including Jermaine Bridgmohan in the Carl Rose. That's one pound more than Actin Good, whose lone win this season came in an optional claiming race at Monmouth Park on Sept. 7.

Like It's a Bird, both Finallymadeit and Marnesia's Big Boy also were cross-entered in the Bonnie Heath but figure to run in the Carl G. Rose if the Bonnie Heath goes as scheduled on the turf.