10/29/2004 12:00AM

True Dancer good buy


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Trainer John Martin says he and owner Robert Bone had some questions about Bone's purchase of True Dancer earlier this year.

Those questions have been erased, and True Dancer could wind up the second choice behind graded stakes winner Ninebanks in Sunday's $55,000-added Pacifica Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the turf at Bay Meadows.

"Bob bought the horse in Florida last year with the idea of running him on the turf here," Martin said. "The first two times we ran him, there was no turf racing, so we tried him on the main track because he was ready to run. He ran a pair of crummy races, and we were nervous about the purchase."

When the bad weather subsided enough to allow racing to resume on the turf, True Dancer erased Martin's doubts.

He won two straight and 4 of 4 turf starts before Bay Meadows closed in June.

Freshened during the summer fair circuit, True Dancer was sent to Del Mar, where he ran third in a $62,500 optional claimer on the turf.

He returned home and won a $50,000 optional claimer in his last start to run his career record to 4 wins and a second in 5 starts over the Longden Turf Course.

True Dancer isn't the only horse in the Pacifica who runs well over the Bay Meadows grass course.

Ninebanks truly loves the Longden, with five victories over it, including the Grade 2 San Francisco Breeders' Cup Handicap and two California Turf Championships. Motel Staff also has five wins over the course.

In contrast, High Thunder, claimed for $10,000 in March at Santa Anita by owner-trainer Bart Edwards, is an intriguing prospect whose grass form is unknown.

He was second in a $32,000 claimer then won an allowance race, but will be making his first start in more than six months and first ever on turf.

"He's very athletic, light on his feet, with high knee action that seems to go well on the turf," said Edwards, who is pleased with the way the 5-year-old High Thunder is training.

Ninebanks and True Dancer appear the likely favorites, but Helms Deep could be a factor as well in his first start since a Jan. 29 allowance victory at Santa Anita.