09/17/2003 12:00AM

Tap Dancer to continue ascent in Foolish Pleasure


MIAMI - Tap Dancer's career began with an inauspicious third-place finish against maiden $25,000 claiming foes on July 19. Two months later, the homebred son of Sword Dance finds himself the favorite for Saturday's $100,000 Foolish Pleasure Stakes and among the leading candidates for the $400,000 In Reality Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes on Oct. 11.

Tap Dancer's quick rise to the top of his division has even taken his trainer, Kathleen O'Connell, by surprise.

"He was very slow coming up to the races," O'Connell said. "I like to give young horses a confidence boost early in their careers and try to start them out where they can do the most good. He was by just an ordinary mare [Heaven's Gate] and I didn't think anybody would take a chance to claim him, so I started him for a $25,000 claiming price the first time."

In his July 19 debut, Tap Dancer was beaten less than two lengths, despite breaking poorly and having to take up while full of run near the eighth pole of the seven-furlong race. O'Connell moved him up to the maiden special weight ranks and stretched him out to one mile for his second start, and he finished a late-running second behind a loose-on-the-lead Hopefortheroses. He won his next two starts, both at one mile, including the Seacliff Stakes on Aug. 30. He overcame early trouble in that race to easily run down the graded stakes-placed Charming Jim en route to a 1 1/4-length victory.

"I knew he'd be a much more effective horse going a route of ground," O'Connell said. "And I was glad they put up the Seacliff Stakes at a mile on Baby Day because it kept us from being tempted to turn him back to seven furlongs for the Stallion Stakes that same afternoon."

The 1 1/16-mile In Reality is O'Connell's main goal for Tap Dancer, who is owned by his breeder, Gil Campbell. O'Connell and Campbell won the first two legs of the Stallion Stakes in 1996 with Blazing Sword, who missed a sweep of the series when he finished third in the In Reality.

O'Connell and Campbell will also be represented in Saturday's $100,000 Brave Raj Stakes for juvenile fillies by Queen Geraldine, a lightly raced daughter of West Acre who has won one of three starts. She finished a tiring fourth in her two turn-debut in the Lindsay Frolic Stakes on Aug. 30.

"She's still very immature mentally and I think a lot better than what she's shown," said O'Connell, who is tied for eighth in the trainer standings during the spring-summer meet. "She's going to run in blinkers for the first time on Saturday. Hopefully they'll keep her a lot more focused than she's been in her earlier races."

Aeneas works

Aeneas worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 over a fast track here on Wednesday morning. Aeneas, graded stakes placed in each of his last three starts, could make his next start against Perfect Drift and Tenpins in the $750,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup on Sept. 28.

Wynn Dot Comma, who like Aeneas is trained by Marty Wolfson, worked a bullet half-mile in 47.80 seconds on Wednesday. Wynn Dot Comma, a 2-year-old son of Struggler, is perfect in three starts, including an easy victory in the Herecomesmybaby Stakes on Aug. 30.