John Oxley's Snow Dance, winless since April 2002, scored an upset victory over a New York Handicap (gr. II) field that included a three-horse entry from the Bobby Frankel barn on the July 4 holiday card at Belmont Park.
Sent off at 27-1 odds in the 1 1/4-mile race contested over the inner turf course, the 5-year-old daughter of Forest Wildcat took the lead from pacesetter Trekking leaving the second turn and held off a determined Pertursane for a one-length triumph. Along with Lilac Queen, Trekking and Pertursane were part of a Frankel-trained entry that went to post as the prohibitive 3-5 choice in the New York Handicap.
Snow Dance paid $56.00, $9.10, and $2.10, with Pertursane worth $2.50 and $2.10. Riskaverse was third, paying $2.10, followed by last year's winner Owsley, Trekking, Mariensky, Sunstone, and Lilac Queen. Sixty Second (NZ) was scratched.
Trained by John T. Ward Jr., Snow Dance has won or placed in 17 of 21 lifetime starts, including eight victories. The victory was the first for the mare since whe took the grade III Suwanee River Handicap at Keeneland on April 2002. She was winless in eight starts since that victory while competing mainly in top graded stakes company. Previous to Friday's win, Snow Dance finished sixth in the Sheepshead Bay Handicap (gr. II) over a soft Belmont Park turf course obviously not to her liking.
"I was looking forward to running her long on natural turf, and last time, it was a natural bog," Ward said of the Sheepshead Bay loss. "This is what she likes to do, and we didn't get a chance to get to it this spring. She's matured. Last year, she was three to four lengths off of the best grass mares because she hadn't matured yet. In the last couple of months, she's finally matured into an older mare. That's what it is all about with these older turf horses -- being able to power home."
Ridden by Richard Migliore, Snow Dance tracked Trekking, who went the first quarter in :23 4/5 and the half in :49 1/5, but was never farther back than a half-length, enabling her to take the lead when asked. The winner completed the 1 1/4 mile distance in 1:59 3/5.
"John (Ward) and I spoke and he told he she had a very long and steady stride, but not a quick turn of foot," Migliore said. "My plan was to make Trekking run early and then back off. I was trying to turn an eight-horse race into a two-horse race. I went to her about three and a half furlongs out, and she gave it up. My mare finished up like she had been running on the turn. A lot of the credit goes to John and Donna (Ward). They did a great job with her, and they explained the horse to me in a way I could understand."
Snow Dance will likely make her next start in the grade I, $500,000 Diana Handicap for fillies and mares at nine furlongs on the turf at Saratoga.