10/29/2010 3:19PM

Ward has high hopes for Dancinginherdreams


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – John T. Ward Jr. would never be one to get ahead of himself, but a man’s got to have a plan, doesn’t he? That’s what the trainer of a good 2-year-old does, anyway.

“We’re going to work backward from the Kentucky Oaks with this filly,” Ward said of Dancinginherdreams, a spectacular recent maiden winner at Keeneland and one of the favorites for the Grade 2, $150,000 Pocahontas Stakes on the opening-day program Sunday at Churchill Downs.

Whether or not Dancinginherdreams will make it back for the Oaks next May would be pure conjecture at this point, but Ward has been extremely high for months on a Tapit filly who was a $330,000 yearling purchase by his main client, John Oxley, and whose gray/roan coloring is nearly white.

“I’ve always felt she was a really good commodity,” Ward said. “There are some pretty interesting fillies in against her Sunday. We’re going to find out about her true colors, but I am happy with the way she’s coming along. After this, we’ll most likely back off on her and take her to Florida for the winter. The Forward Gal [at Gulfstream Park] is 105 days from this race, so that’s how far down the road we’re looking.”

Dancinginherdreams, with Julien Leparoux back to ride, will start from post 3 in a field of seven 2-year-old fillies in the one-mile Pocahontas, which is carded as the 10th of 11 races on the “Stars of Tomorrow” opener. Her chief opponent appears to be Honey Chile, a speedy filly drawn to the outside post for trainer Wayne Catalano and jockey Michael Baze. In her last race, Honey Chile sped to a six-furlong allowance victory over the Keeneland Polytrack in a rapid 1:08.88.

“Fast, isn’t she?” Catalano said. “We’re anxious to see how she does stretching out.”

Other Pocahontas contenders include Missyoulikecrazy, a last-out maiden winner at Belmont Park; Days Like This, in from Delaware Park off a narrow defeat in a small stakes at two turns; and Gran Lioness, winner in 2 of 3 career starts.

Ward, by the way, is one of a handful of surviving trainers to have won both the Kentucky Oaks and Derby, having pulled off that coveted double with Gal In a Ruckus (1995) and Monarchos (2001), respectively. The others are Leroy Jolley, D. Wayne Lukas, Bob Baffert, Nick Zito, and Todd Pletcher.

This will be the 42nd running of the Pocahontas. Trainer Dale Romans won the last two runnings with Sassy Image (2009) and Sara Louise (2008), with the latter defeating Rachel Alexandra in the process.

◗ Besides the Pocahontas and the co-featured Iroquois (race 8) for colts and geldings, the Stars of Tomorrow card also includes two allowance races and six maiden special weight events.

The filly allowance (race 5) doesn’t look particularly tough as Henny’s Hurricane, a last-out winner of a maiden-claiming race at Saratoga, could wind up the favorite in a field of seven fillies going 1 1/16 miles. Conversely, the colt-and-gelding allowance (race 9) at 6 1/2 furlongs is far more compelling and deep, with Justin Phillip, Impersonator, Hammock Beach, Tale of Lucknfame, and Cheyann Belief being the prime contenders in a full field of 12.

Some of the maiden races, predictably, drew a number of promising youngsters, including those that fetched hefty prices at auction such as Secret of the Sea ($675,000) and Hailey d’Oro ($650,000) in the second race and Platinum Cat ($325,000) in the third.

The only claiming event on the program, a $40,000 sprint for fillies, serves as the opening race of the meet. First post Sunday is 12:45 p.m. Eastern.