01/29/2010 12:00AM

Soldier's Dancer needs pace help


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Soldier's Dancer, whose list of nagging little injuries is matched only by his list of stakes victories, will put his championship belt on the line when he defends his title in Saturday's $300,000 Sunshine Millions Turf for Florida-breds and California-breds. The Turf is one of three Sunshine Millions races that will be decided at Gulfstream Park, along with the $200,000 Sprint and $300,000 Distaff.

Soldier's Dancer, a Florida-bred son of Lost Soldier trained by David Vivian, has won 12 of 32 career starts. Seven of those victories have come in stakes, including the Grade 3 Miami Mile and Grade 3 Calder Derby. His biggest payday, however, came in the 2009 Sunshine Millions Turf, valued at $500,000, when he rallied from last, nearly 20 lengths off the pace, to run down Presious Passion and post a half-length decision at Santa Anita.

"He's an amazing horse with so much heart," said Vivian. "He's had problems all along. It was nip and tuck whether we'd get him back to the races a couple of times, but no matter what, he's fired every time I've run him."

Soldier's Dancer has made just four starts since winning the 2009 Turf. He was taken out of training for nearly five months after rallying from last to finish fourth, less than a length behind the winner, in the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Jr. Handicap at Fair Grounds in March. Following a narrow setback on the dirt in his return at Calder, Soldier's Dancer came back to post a pair of stakes wins, including a successful defense of his title in Philadelphia Park's President's Cup.

"He's a year older now and probably not quite as good as he was when he beat Presious Passion in this race a year ago," said Vivian. "I brought him here to work over this turf course last Sunday. He worked well, and considering all the problems he's had he's about as good as I can get him right now."

The late-running Soldier's Dancer's biggest problem in the 1 1/8-mile Turf may be a lack of pace in the race. That factor should enhance the chances of Jet Propulsion, a Florida-bred who was claimed for $50,000 by trainer Marty Wolfson off a wire-to-wire, three-length victory at Calder on Dec. 12. Coincidentally, Vivian trained Jet Propulsion earlier in his career before he was claimed during the summer of 2005.

"I lost him for $25,000 and he eventually wound up running for $10,000," Vivian recalled. "But once they put him on the turf he became a different horse. If he's the one to beat on Saturday, I should be in pretty good shape."

Jet Propulsion, who ultimately became a graded stakes winner himself, is one of two horses Wolfson has entered in the Turf. Wolfson could also send out Pickapocket, who finished a half-length behind Soldier's Dancer in the Bonnie Heath Turf Cup at Calder on Nov. 14.

Duke of Mischief would be wheeling back on less than three weeks' rest if he runs in the Turf. He is also nominated to the Grade 1 Donn next Saturday. Duke of Mischief became a Grade 3 winner for the first time earlier in the meet when he rallied to a neck victory in the Ft. Lauderdale.

"We're still on the fence about running him Saturday," said trainer David Fawkes. "It would mean putting him back on the turf and running back in just three weeks. The extra week to the Donn would do him good."

Todd Pletcher will send out Bad Action for the first time on Saturday. Bad Action has won six of his last nine starts, including the Grade 3 Pegasus at the Meadowlands for his former trainer, Gary Contessa.

Fearless Eagle, a multiple stakes winner, has started just twice since mid-July and is seeking his first victory since capturing Tampa's Turf Classic in April.

Ballonenostrikes, Roman Tiger, Picou, and Tie Rod round out the lineup.

Wicked Style was also entered but will be scratched to run in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita.