11/20/2009 1:00AM

Tap Dancing seeking nice, easy lead


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - An enduring paradox in racing is that speed holds its own in longer races. The obvious reason is that a less demanding pace allows a front-runner to conserve more energy for the final stages.

This generalization may apply Sunday at Churchill Downs, where the feature race will be run at 1 1/2 miles on the turf. Carded as the ninth of 10 races, the $50,000 second-level allowance drew a field of 10 that includes a prime candidate to lead throughout: Tap Dancing, a Pleasant Tap colt trained by Michelle Nihei.

After winning on the main track here May 6, Tap Dancing finished a close second June 25 after leading to deep stretch in a three-turn turf race with conditions similar to the Sunday feature. He has raced once since, fading badly in an August allowance at Saratoga.

"He has been in training all this time," said Nihei, who had two wins and a second in her first three starts at the meet. "We knew he likes Churchill and that it suits him well. We've been aiming for this spot here. He's really happy, and his attitude is great."

Julien Leparoux has the mount on Tap Dancing and will be in charge of getting the colt to settle early. Tap Dancing, said Nihei, is "just sort of fussy about how things set up for him. If it doesn't suit him, he packs it in, but if things are going his way, he'll dig in and really, really try hard."

The ninth race is one of three allowances on the Sunday card. In those earlier races, Diamond Song and Honchis 'n' Ponchis will seek repeat wins when facing six other filly-mare sprinters in the $50,000 fifth race. Leparoux has a live mount in the eighth race with Headache, one of 10 entered in the $48,000 race.

Two starter allowances (races 2 and 3) and two maiden specials (races 6 and 10) also are on the Sunday card.

w After Sunday, Churchill goes dark for a day before a Tuesday program leads off the final five-day stretch of the fall meet. First post of 12:40 p.m. is in effect until Thursday, when first post switches to 11:30 a.m. for the last three 12-race cards.