10/11/2007 12:00AM

Trip is crucial for Soldier's Dancer

EmailMIAMI - After watching Soldier's Dancer suffer a nightmare trip in the Needles Stakes three weeks ago, trainer David Vivian is hoping for better racing luck when his talented 3-year-old returns as the likely favorite in Saturday's Grade 3 Calder Derby.

Vivian knew the late-running Soldier's Dancer could be in for a rough trip in the Needles after drawing post 1. And, sure enough, Soldier's Dancer got trapped without racing room along the hedge and was forced to steady sharply while attempting to rally near the quarter pole. Soldier's Dancer had to angle out to the middle of the track to finally get clear entering the stretch, rallying past more than half the field to finish fourth behind the upset winner, Fair Weather Stan.

"With his running style things like that can happen, especially over a turf course like this with tight turns," said Vivian. "It wasn't the rider's fault. There was just no place to go."

Vivian is confident, however, that Soldier's Dancer can rebound with a clean trip in the Calder Derby.

"I think he's the class of this field," said Vivian. "He was beaten less than three lengths by Nobiz Like Shobiz in Delaware, and he's one of the top 3-year-old turf horses in the country right now."

Soldier's Dancer, who won the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby here in his 3-year-old debut, finished fifth behind Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Grade 3 Kent Breeders' Cup at Delaware Park. In his previous start, Soldier's Dancer ran third in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby.

Cornelio Velasquez, who rode Soldier's Dancer to victory in the Tropical Park Derby, will be back aboard on Saturday.

Soldier's Dancer is one of seven members from the Needles field that will renew acquaintances in the 1 1/8-mile Calder Derby. The group includes Fair Weather Stan, who outfinished Fearless Eagle to win the Needles by a nose for his fifth win in 10 starts this season.

Also coming out of the Needles are Fearless Eagle, a hard-luck second, Imawildandcrazyguy (3rd), Villainage (7th), Hal's My Hope (11th), and Unbridled Music (12th). They will be joined by Craftmanship, One of the Best, Kris Silver, Got the Last Laugh, and Steelix.

Lady Digby looks best in Calder Oaks

Lady Digby, a late-charging third in her stakes debut in Saratoga's restricted Weekend Madness Stakes on Labor Day, will likely be a tepid favorite against nine other 3-year-old fillies in the $200,000 Calder Oaks.

Lady Digby, a homebred daughter of Grand Slam who is owned by Earle Mack, earned a career-best 90 Beyer Speed Figure in the 1 1/16- mile Weekend Madness, and that effort was flattered when the runner-up, Unspoken Word, returned to win an overnight stakes at Belmont Park 16 days later.

Velasquez has gotten the call to ride Lady Digby from trainer Graham Motion.

"It's a logical spot for her," said Motion. "The conditions fit her nicely. I think she ran well last time even though she was a little unlucky."

Snow Cone, winner of the Judy's Red Shoes Stakes, tops the locals in the Calder Oaks. The Judy's Red Shoes win was the first this season for the late-striding Snow Cone, who also ran second in the both Ravolia and Georgia Oaks over this course earlier in the season.

Arch Nemesis and Sweet Exchange, second and third in the Judys Red Shoes, also return in the Calder Oaks - along with the multiple- stakes-placed Cozzi Capital.

Scooter Girl, off the board in her lone start on grass, would benefit if the Calder Oaks were switched to the main track. She is coming off a win in the Regal Gal Stakes and a second in the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks. She's coupled in the wagering with Maria's Kitty, who finished fourth in her turf debut in the Judy's Red Shoes.