09/20/2007 12:00AM

Soldier's Dancer may need racing luck

EmailMIAMI - Deep closers over a tight-turned grass course are always shaky betting propositions - especially when they are short-priced favorites, as Soldier's Dancer figures to be in Saturday's $100,000 Needles Stakes at Calder.

That being said, anybody looking to beat Soldier's Dancer in the 1 1/16-mile Needles will do so at their own risk. The stretch-running 3-year-old is unquestionably the horse to beat and needs only clear sailing under leading rider Elvis Trujillo to add the Needles to victories this season in the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby here and the Sophomore Turf Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

Soldier's Dancer has shipped north from his Calder base for his last three starts. A son of Lost Soldier, Soldier's Dancer finished a troubled sixth behind Summer Doldrums in the Grade 3 Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs, third behind Red Giant in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby there, and most recently fifth behind Nobiz Like Shobiz in Delaware's Grade 3 Kent Breeders' Cup.

"He's the best horse in this field Saturday, but as always he'll need some racing luck because of his running style," said Dave Vivian, who trains Soldier's Dancer for owner Herman Heinlein. "He really ran some big races up north this winter. He got beat only four lengths for a million dollars in the Virginia Derby. In his last start he was really rolling down the stretch, but the stretch at Delaware is only an eighth of a mile, so it was really an impossible task. About three strides past the wire he was in front of them all."

Soldier's Dancer drew the rail for the Needles.

"The post might actually help him if everything breaks right," said Vivian. "I just hope he doesn't get smothered down in there and winds up having to go to the outside fence to get clear."

Soldier's Dancer will be the favorite in the Needles but is not the class of the field. That distinction belongs to Imawildandcrazyguy, who has competed in four Grade 1 races this year but will be making his turf debut on Saturday.

"His father loved the grass, so I believe he will, too," trainer Bill Kaplan said.

A son of Wild Event, Imawildandcrazyguy was fourth in both the Kentucky Derby and the Grade 1 Haskell this year.

Among the lesser-known runners with a chance to pull off the upset in the Needles are Payyourtax, who brings a three-race win streak into his stakes debut; local turf stakes winners Fearless Eagle and Fair Weather Stan; and Villainage and Notice Me Now.

Judy's Red Shoes: Snow Cone's back

Snow Cone figures to be a tepid favorite in a full field of 3-year-old filly grass specialists in the $100,000 Judy's Red Shoes Stakes.

Snow Cone was upset by Sweet Exchange as the 4-5 favorite in the Ravolia Stakes here three weeks earlier, losing her best chance when taken up in traffic near the eighth pole. In her previous start, Snow Cone finished a wide-running fifth in Colonial's Virginia Oaks.

Sweet Exchange also returns in the Judy's Red Shoes, trying to prove that her triumph at odds of 29-1 in the Ravolia was no fluke.

Langworthy, a distant second behind Scooter Girl over the main track in the Regal Gal Stakes, returns to the grass and looms a key contender from the rail for trainer Manny Azpurua.

"She ran three times in less than a month when she competed in the Regal Gal, but now I've been able to give her a little rest between starts," said Azpurua. "She worked too good from the gate here the other morning and I think the experience she got racing over the turf the first time should help her Saturday."