01/01/2007 12:00AM

Soldier's Dancer victory stirs memory of Barbaro


MIAMI - Calder's $100,000 Tropical Park Derby, traditionally the year's first graded stakes in North America, took on added significance in 2006 with the victory by eventual Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.

The recent history of the race wasn't lost on trainer Dave Vivian or owner Herman Heinlein after their colt, the 3-2 favorite Soldier's Dancer, rallied from last with an impressive surge for a three-quarter-length win over Sedgefield in Monday's 32nd renewal of the Grade 3 race.

"Yes, my owner mentioned the fact Barbaro won this race a year ago," a smiling Vivian said in the winner's circle. "I just told him, 'Let's not get too carried away just yet.' "

Soldier's Dancer ($5), who closed late to win the Arthur Appleton Juvenile Turf in his grass debut on Nov. 11, was still at the back of the pack leaving the backstretch of Monday's 1 1/8-mile race. Jockey Cornelio Velasquez forced his horse out between rivals for racing room on the far turn and came six wide into the stretch, as Soldier's Dancer found another gear to run down the dueling leaders nearing the wire.

Sedgefield and Storm in May contested the pace and bumped near midstretch with Sedgefield proving best of the pair. Rutledge Cat and Pickapocket finished a fourth and sixth, respectively, in the scratch-reduced field of nine 3-year-olds.

"He's the best horse I've ever trained," said Vivian, who swept the filly division of the Florida Stallion stakes in 2004 with Aclassysassylassy. "I think we'll try him one time on dirt to see where we stand at Gulfstream. Probably in the Holy Bull."

Barbaro followed his win in last year's Tropical Park Derby with wins in the Holy Bull and Florida Derby at Gulfstream.

Earlier, Kent Desormeaux, who is riding regularly in south Florida for the first time, guided Christmas Kid ($7.80) to a half-length win over Perfect Motion in the $100,000 Calder Oaks.

Christmas Kid, a 3-year-old daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, raced well placed while saving ground behind the leaders, eased out four wide for the drive, and ran down Perfect Motion in the final sixteenth. Perfect Motion rallied to a clear lead in early stretch before succumbing in deep stretch.