09/16/2008 11:00PM

Soldier's Dancer returns as conquering hero


MIAMI - While the newly created Monmouth Stakes was getting all the attention last Saturday because of the presence of Big Brown, there was another rich turf race for older horses being decided the same day just down the turnpike at Philadelphia Park, the $250,000 PTHA President's Cup. That race was won by the Calder-based Soldier's Dancer, who exploded through the stretch to an impressive two-length victory over longshot Ballonenostrikes for trainer Dave Vivian and owner Herman Heinlein.

Soldier's Dancer's task became a little easier when trainer Bill Mott opted to scratch the morning-line favorite, Silver Tree, from the President's Cup to compete against Big Brown at Monmouth. And while Vivian certainly wasn't complaining about Silver Tree's defection, he certainly hadn't lost any sleep about having to face Silver Tree if need be.

"I couldn't understand how Silver Tree was 8-5 in the morning line and we were 12-1, since we had already beaten him earlier this year at Tampa," said Vivian. "But then again I'm always looking to find the weakest opposition I can get for any of my horses."

Soldier's Dancer had started just once since defeating Silver Tree by 1 1/4 lengths in the Tampa Turf Classic on April 5. That lone outing resulted in a second-place finish behind the front-running Finallymadeit in a race switched from the turf to the main track here last month.

"I laid him up this summer because he'd had a hard campaign and lost quite a bit of weight," said Vivian. "I just kept him here and walked him for a couple of months. I had him in on the grass for his first start back, but the race was moved to the main track, and even though he didn't win, it really set him up good for the race this weekend."

As usual, Soldier's Dancer dropped off the pace during the early stages of the President's Cup, although not as far as usual considering the snail-like fractions of 26.65 and 53.26 seconds set by Delaware River. Soldier's Dancer was still last after six furlongs in 1:18.38 but settled readily once roused by jockey Manny Cruz on the final turn, finishing full of run to easily run down the leaders and win going away.

"I was a little nervous because the pace was so slow, although the course was pretty heavy from all the rains they had up there," said Vivian. "Once he got in gear and angled out into the stretch, he ran by them like they were tied to the fence. If the race had been another sixteenth of a mile he'd have won by 10 lengths."

Vivian said he will keep Soldier's Dancer home for the remainder of the year.

"There's a race here in a month and another about six weeks after that," said Vivian, referring to the Grade 3 Miami Mile Handicap on Oct. 18 and the Grade 3 Tropical Turf Handicap on Dec. 6. "The long-term goal may be another shot at the Sunshine Millions Turf in January."

Soldier's Dancer finished second behind the Mott-trained War Monger in the 2008 Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream Park. The 2009 Sunshine Millions Turf will be run at Santa Anita.

Juvenile stakes not overflowing

Nominations were relatively light for both the $90,000 Foolish Pleasure and Brave Raj stakes for 2-year-olds to be decided here a week from Saturday. The Foolish Pleasure, which serves as a major stepping-stone to the $400,000 In Reality division of the Florida Stallion Stakes three weeks later, attracted only 11 nominees, led by recent stakes winners This Ones for Phil and Code Runner. Its filly counterpart, the Brave Raj, drew 12 nominations topped by the Susan's Girl runner-up, La Chica Sensual, along with stakes winners Renda and Got Clearance.

The winner of the mile-and-70-yard Foolish Pleasure has captured the last three editions of the In Reality, the finale of the open division of the stallion series.

Saratoga Tango hot off her last

Saratoga Tango, an easy eight-length winner of the seven-furlong Barbs Dancer Stakes on Aug. 31, will be heavily favored despite stretching out around two turns for the first time in Friday's $23,250 allowance feature.

Saratoga Tango, a 4-year-old daughter of Successful Appeal trained by Myra Mora, earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 100 for her easy win in the Barbs Dancer.

Several jockeys lose appeals

The Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering has turned down several more appeals by local jockeys regarding suspensions meted out by the stewards earlier in the meet. Among the group is leading rider Paco Lopez, whose three-day ban for careless riding aboard Plum Sneaky on May 11 was upheld by the board.

Other riders whose appeals were denied include Wes Henry, who had two rulings totaling eight days, and Edilberto Dominguez.

Lopez is awaiting a hearing from the wagering board on a 30-day suspension that he appealed earlier this summer.