01/29/2005 12:00AM

Valentine Dancer defends

Valentine Dancer takes the lead in the stretch en route to winning her second straight Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - A week ago, trainer Craig Lewis was flat on his back at a California hospital, temporarily paralyzed with a bulging disk in his back. He got out of the hospital Monday, and on Saturday he completed his emotionally draining week by watching Valentine Dancer win the $500,000 for the second straight year.

Lewis would have liked to have been at Gulfstream Park for the race, but he reluctantly acceded to his doctor's wishes and remained home in California. He went to Santa Anita earlier Saturday, but said he went home before the race so he could watch it on television without any commotion.

"What a week," Lewis said when reached by telephone. "It's like everything possible happened. I feel way, way better than I did a week ago.

"I pleaded with the doctor to let me go," he said. "He said I was insane. I said, 'I am insane.' That morphine they had me on last week, I went from excruciating pain to being on an E-ticket at Disneyland."

Valentine Dancer ($19), under Jon Court, took the lead entering the stretch and held off a belated bid by Marwood to win by a neck. Changing World was another neck back in third in a blanket finish. Moscow Burning, the 6-5 favorite, finished fifth in the field of 12. Valentine Dancer completed 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:47.20.

Valentine Dancer, a California-bred, won the same race one year earlier, when it was run at Santa Anita. But she had raced just three times since then and had only returned to action two weeks ago following an eight-month layoff caused by a fractured hind ankle.

"I had lost so much time with her because of the rain," Lewis said. "I had to scratch her twice. A couple races scheduled in the book did not go. I finally got the race into her. She was going to have to make it on class and get a perfect trip, which she did."