07/27/2003 11:00PM

Voodo Dancer got what she deserved


NEW YORK - Impressions from a busy racing weekend:

The racing expression "What goes 'round, comes 'round" is as old as dirt, but it still applies, and Voodoo Dancer's victory in Saturday's Diana Handicap at Saratoga was the latest illustration.

Voodoo Dancer took an awful beat in last year's Diana. Wide every step of the way from an outside post, she was beaten a nose by the rail-skimming Tates Creek. In other words, Voodoo Dancer had a Diana out there with her name on it, and she got it. In fact, she got an even better one, since the Diana this year was upgraded from Grade 2 to Grade 1.

It was interesting how Voodoo Dancer got her Diana. She saved ground until midway on the far turn, when she made an inside-out rally. And even if you go five wide into the stretch, as Voodoo Dancer did, such an inside-out move is not nearly as demanding as being three to four wide around the entire far turn, the trip afforded Heat Haze, who ended up beaten a neck by Voodoo Dancer. As Voodoo Dancer's trainer, Christophe Clement, pointed out after the race, it could be considered ironic that after Voodoo Dancer lost the way she did last year to the Bobby Frankel-trained, Jerry Bailey-ridden Tates Creek, this time the Frankel-trained, Bailey-ridden Heat Haze lost the way she did to Voodoo Dancer.

Speaking of having a name on a race, Pertuisane, who finished third in the Diana, is going to win one of these big turf races. She should have been absolutely unsaddled at 44-1 in last year's Grade 1 Garden City Breeders' Cup, and she would have been right there with Voodoo Dancer and Heat Haze were she not blocked behind a wall of horses from late on the far turn through upper stretch.

The Southern California-based turf fillies and mares are an entertaining bunch as well. But with the way they take turns beating each other, it is fair to question their brilliance. In Saturday's John C. Mabee Handicap at Del Mar, it was Megahertz's turn, as she outkicked Dublino, whom she had finished behind in four previous meetings, and Tates Creek, whom she had finished behind in two prior meetings, not to mention the defending divisional champ, Golden Apples. Of this group, the only one who merits an excuse is Golden Apples, as this was her first start back after a near-eight-month, injury-related absence. On the other hand, turf horses, because of the forgiving nature of the surface they race on, usually return from all kinds of layoffs very close to, if not right in, top form.

Value Plus looks special

Trainer Todd Pletcher is dominating 2-year-old racing in New York this year. He won the opening-day feature at Saratoga last Wednesday, the Schuylerville for fillies, with Ashado. The next day, he won the Sanford with Chapel Royal, who earlier had won the Flash at Belmont Park. Pletcher also won the Tremont at Belmont with Heckle, and he has sent out several other impressive maiden winners.

Pletcher sent out one of the most impressive 2-year-old debut winners in several years when Value Plus won Saturday's third race at Saratoga. Value Plus was no secret, as the $1.1 million 2-year-olds in training purchase was sent off at 1-2. But he had to impress even his connections with the way he disputed a pace that was significantly faster than top 3-year-old fillies contested in the Grade 1 Test later in the card, and then still drew away to romp by almost nine lengths. Perhaps the most exciting thing about Value Plus is that, on the television screen at least, he is big, and all legs, which suggests he still has tons of room for physical development. This is a very special prospect.

Ferdinand chorus rings false

The possible circumstances surrounding the death in Japan of Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Ferdinand are troubling. But am I the only one gagging at the righteous indignation American breeders express when things like this happen?

When a stallion falls short of expectations in his stud career, isn't it the American breeder who dumps him off to anyone, from anywhere, who coughs up top dollar, no matter how principled they may or may not be?

Let's face it, breeders are thrilled to cut their losses when a buyer comes along and takes an unsuccessful stud like Ferdinand off their hands. But when things go terribly wrong, as they may have in this case, breeders should be careful with what they say, since they were the ones to start the process in the first place by disposing of the stud as if he were some recyclable water bottle.

* The makers of the movie "Seabiscuit" may have played fast and loose with some of the facts of the story, but the feeling is the general public has tapped into this tale much in the way they embraced Funny Cide during his quest of the Triple Crown. All I know is, when I saw the movie Friday evening, the theater was nearly full with people ranging from young teens to the elderly, and when the film was over, the audience actually applauded. When was the last time you witnessed an audience applaud at the end of a movie?