08/11/2008 11:00PM

Time, money well invested

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Barbara D. Livingston
Grade 1 Manhattan winner Dancing Forever (with rider Phil White at Saratoga) has blossomed at age 5 as the result of the patience and persistence of his trainer and owner.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - What Dancing Forever has accomplished at age 5 is a testament to the perseverance and patience of his trainer, Shug McGaughey.

That Dancing Forever even exists is due in large part to the persistence of his owner and breeder, Ogden Phipps, the skill of several doctors in Pennsylvania, and the tender, loving care given the horse's mother by a married couple who run a rehabilitation farm in Kentucky.

After winning just 2 of his first 15 starts, Dancing Forever has won 3 of his last 4 races, including the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day. He will seek his second straight Grade 1 victory in Saturday's $500,000 Sword Dancer at Saratoga, where he will face two past Breeders' Cup Turf winners, Red Rocks and Better Talk Now.

Dancing Forever is a son of Rahy out of the mare Dancinginmydreams, who is a full sister to the Phipps homebred champion Heavenly Prize and the Grade 1 winner Oh What a Windfall. In 2000, Dancinginmydreams won her debut and was beaten a head in the Grade 1 Matron at Belmont.

Turning into the Belmont Park stretch in the Grade 1 Frizette on Oct. 14, 2000, Dancinginmydreams broke her right hind leg. Though she was vanned back to McGaughey's barn, veterinarians said Dancinginmydreams would have to be euthanized. Phipps, who was there that day, asked one question.

"Can I get her to Pennsylvania without her suffering?" Phipps said.

Told yes, Phipps had Dancinginmydreams vanned to the New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania, where she underwent surgery to stabilize the fractured cannon bone. Her injury was quite similar to that suffered by 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro in the Preakness. Barbaro, however, had to be euthanized nine months later.

Dancinginmydreams would undergo five surgeries during a 13-month stint at New Bolton. Dancinginmydreams left New Bolton in November 2001 and was sent to the Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital before she was supposed to go to Claiborne Farm, where the Phippses board their broodmares.

But on the suggestion of Dr. Larry Bramlage, Dancinginmydreams was sent to the Caddel Equine Therapy Center in Georgetown, Ky. The 52-acre facility, run by Steve and Linda Caddel, specializes in post-surgical care and also houses broodmares who can't exist in a normal population of broodmares.

It was there that the Caddels helped rehabilitate Dancinginmydreams. Building bone density in the mare's leg was the first objective and began with six weeks of walking, then turn-out in a round pen, and then a one-acre outdoor paddock. Linda Caddel would watch virtually every step Dancinginmydreams took.

In March 2002, Dancinginmydreams was cleared to be bred. Rahy, a relatively small colt, was chosen as a stallion in hopes that Dancinginmydreams would have a small foal.

"As it turns out he's huge," Caddel said of the foal that would be Dancing Forever.

As the years have passed, Dancinginmydreams, now 10, suffers more frequently from lymphangitis, an infection that compromises circulation in her right hind leg. According to Caddel, Dancinginmydreams undergoes physical therapy anywhere from three to seven times a week. The therapy includes a variety of ways to stimulate circulation, including therapeutic ultrasound and sometimes laser stimulation.

Caddel said one of the new things used for Dancinginmydreams is a hyperbaric chamber, which creates an oxygen rich environment and helps tissue repair and circulation. This is done at the Hagyard-Davidson-McGee Hospital in Lexington, Ky.

"If she has active lymphangitis, she'll go in several days in a row for 10 or 15 days," Caddel said. "That is her limiting factor right now. If you saw her over across the field you would never turn your head and say 'What's wrong with that horse?' But she's not a maintenance-free horse by any stretch of the imagination."

"They've done a wonderful job with her and with the foals," McGaughey said.

While Dancing Forever is the first foal out of Dancinginmydreams, he is not the last. McGaughey has a 2-year-old filly by El Prado, named Castanet, who is likely to start at this meet. There is a War Chant yearling filly and a Ghostzapper filly foal. Dancinginmydreams is barren this year.

Dancing Forever took a long time to put things together. He won his third career start, a 1 3/16-mile maiden turf race at Saratoga on Aug. 12, 2006. He didn't win again for nine months, taking a first-level allowance at Churchill Downs. He would go another seven months without winning before taking an overnight stakes at Calder last December.

Believing that distance is Dancing Forever's game, McGaughey ran him in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf at 1 3/8 miles and Dancing Forever finished second, beaten a neck by Einstein.

Since then, Dancing Forever won the Grade 2 Elkhorn at Keeneland, before getting up in the final strides to beat Out of Control in the Manhattan.

"I think he was just a big horse who was kind of awkward trying to find his way," McGaughey said. "He was kind of weak behind; now he's sort of grown up and he's sort of put it all together."

Referring to McGaughey, Phipps said, "He kept saying to me 'Just give him time, he'll be a good horse' and he was right."

Going into the Manhattan, McGaughey thought Dancing Forever could run in that race and then back in either the United Nations at Monmouth or the Man o' War at Belmont, both in July.

"I had those spots penciled in, but after how hot a day it was and as hard a race as it was I'd be a fool to bring him back and run him no matter how good he seems to be doing and be third," McGaughey said. "I'd be kicking myself and it might set me back later on."

Caddel said she remembers the first time McGaughey saw Dancinginmydreams with Dancing Forever by her side.

"When she walked out he had tears in his eyes," Caddel said. "It so touched my heart that a trainer of his status had such emotion wrapped around this wonderful mare. He has stood behind her, he has been the greatest cheerleader of Dancing Forever from the time he got him in the barn. Thankfully, you have a racing family like the Phippses who will stand behind the horse till he's five years old."