‘Dancing’ With the Stars in Forward Gal
By Ed Gray
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Two races before some of the leading 3-year-old colts will step onto the Road to the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness 5.5 bonus series in the $400,000 Holy Bull (G3), one of the most exciting 3-year-old filly prospects for the Kentucky Oaks and the Black-Eyed Susan 2.2 bonus series will go to post at Gulfstream Park Sunday.
Undefeated Dancinginherdreams will make her highly anticipated 2011 debut in the $200,000 Forward Gal (G2) with the complete confidence of her trainer. John Ward is pleased with the daughter of Tapit’s development since her 2010 finale in the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on Oct. 31.
“She’s always been a tall, angular filly. Her frame has grown more. She probably weighs a little more – she’s filled out a little more,” Ward said. “I would say she’s bigger and stronger.”
As it was, Dancinginherdreams towered over her competition last fall with a pair of dominating triumphs for owner John Oxley. The Kentucky-bred filly debuted over Keeneland’s Polytrack synthetic surface on Oct. 10, scoring by five going-away lengths after making a sweeping 11th-to-first under Jockey Julien Leparoux in the six-furlong sprint. She returned in the one-mile Pocahontas while handling a conventional dirt track with the same alacrity, surging through a small hole between horses in the stretch to score by more than six lengths.
The seven-furlong Forward Gal is the first of three races that Ward hopes will prepare her for his primary goal, the Kentucky Oaks on May 6.
“I think you have to be on the conservative side with her, and seven furlongs is the right place to start,” Ward said. “I think she’s probably not a sprinter at heart, and she’s going to tie into some pretty good sprinters going seven-eighths. I think as the distances become longer her tactical advantage becomes greater.”
Dancinginherdreams will have plenty of competition in the Forward Gal. R Heat Lightning, the runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs five days after Dancinginherdreams’ Pocahontas triumph, would appear to be the filly to beat. The Todd Pletcher-trained filly captured the Spinaway (G1) at Saratoga at seven furlongs last summer.
Devilish Lady, who has won her last four starts by a total of 27 ½ lengths, and Pomeroy’s Pistol, runner-up in the Old Hat (G3) at Gulfstream on opening day, will also challenge Dancinginherdreams.
“She has won at the three-quarter mark and at the mile mark, so seven-eighths is logical,” Ward said. “But there are some nice horses in there. I think this will be her most difficult race as far as running a style she’s probably not going to run much more for the rest of her life.”
Ward has tentatively scheduled Dancinginherdreams to make her second start in the one-mile Davona Dale (G2) before having her final Oaks prep in either the 1-1/8-mile Gulfstream Oaks (G2) on April 2 or the 1-1/16-mile Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland on April 9.
“That all depends on timing and how hard the two races are here and about whether I want to give her five weeks between races or six weeks,” Ward said. “It comes down to a timing issue, because the Kentucky Oaks is the primary goal, and everything we do needs to lead to the Oaks.”
Should Dancinginherdreams capture the Forward Gal and Davona Dale, her connections would be eligible for $2.2 million in bonuses, if she went on to win the Gulfstream Oaks and the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico on May 20.