Woodbine Race Report: Family Dance

Woodbine Race Report: Family Dance
Photo: Associated Press/CP
Dancethruthedawn followed family tradition in the Queen's Plate.
Published in the June 30 issue of The Blood-Horse
Just when you think the Sam-Son Farm team has done it all, yet another of their blue-blooded Thoroughbreds is back in the headlines after a record-setting victory.

This time it is their impeccably bred filly Dancethruthedawn, emulating her famous mum Dance Smartly and full brother Scatter the Gold with a smashing win in the 142nd Queen's Plate June 24 at Woodbine racetrack.

It was the first time in Plate history that full siblings (both are by the late Mr. Prospector) have won back-to-back editions of North America's oldest continuously run stakes race.

Dancethruthedawn's gritty half-length victory over heavily favored Win City in the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate was not only the second consecutive Plate victory for Sam-Son, but its fourth overall and third for trainer Mark Frostad. It was the first Plate win for Canadian-born jockey Gary Boulanger, who moved his tack to Woodbine from Florida last summer after missing 15 months due to a serious back injury.

Dance Smartly's feat of winning the 1991 Queen's Plate (she also completed the Canadian Triple Crown and won the grade I Breeders' Cup Distaff) and producing consecutive Queen's Plate winners in a 10-year span is an accomplishment that will be tough to match and puts the daughter of Danzig in the annals as one of the world's best broodmares.

The 10-horse field for the $1 million (Canadian funds, $656,763 U.S.) Plate was the smallest field since Dance Smartly's romp over eight rivals. Most believed it was a two-horse race between Sam-Son's fashionably bred filly -- who just missed out in the voting for Canada's best 2-year-old filly last year but had won the Labatt Woodbine Oaks (Canadian Oaks) only two weeks before the Plate -- and the blue collar gelding Win City, whose owners Frank DiGiulio Jr., and his late father Frank Sr., and trainer Bob Tiller were seeking their first Plate win.

Win City, a son of Slew City Slew from the DiGiulio's homebred mare Winsfordan, had been flawless in his last three Plate preps, including a 3 3/4-length victory in the Plate Trial Stakes.

Among the gelding's victims was Woodbine's publicity pet Millennium Allstar, who brought a lot of extra media attention to the Plate thanks to his part-owner, Curtis Joseph, the popular Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender.

Millennium Allstar, a half-brother to 2000 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Red Bullet, had been learning how to rate in his races for Joseph and part-owners Don Meehan and trainer Sue Leslie, and had rallied to be second in the Plate Trial.

Brushing Bully, third in the Trial for Stronach Stables, was also viewed as a contender as was Dancethruthedawn's late running stablemate Lucky Scarab, a recent maiden winner.

The Plate field was fleshed out by the bargain yearling purchase Thatsthebottomline, an improving gelding handled by the promising young trainer Robert Martin; Highland Legacy, last year's champion Canadian 2-year-old male who had fared poorly in two starts in 2001; Dawn Watcher, trained by Cliff Hopmans Jr., who returned to training in 2001 after a career in horsemen's relations for the Ontario Jockey Club (now Woodbine Entertainment Group); and the maiden duo of Sik and Asia, both listed at 50-1 on the morning line.

The most intriguing aspect of this year's Plate was who would provide the pace, as the field appeared to lack a distinct front runner. But jockey Daniel David took care of that when he chirped to his mount Sik leaving the gate and the pair engaged Brushing Bully in an early duel.

Dancethruthedawn, who had been fractious in the gate before a troubled run in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) in her second start of this year, popped out of the gate in fine order for Boulanger and was immediately stalking the pace in an ideal position.

"You couldn't have asked for a better trip," said Boulanger. "She got away a lot better from the gate today and had me in exceptional position. It was just a matter of when I pushed the button."

While Dancethruthedawn sat poised off a modest early pace of :23.45, :47.32, and 1:12.37, jockey Constant Montpellier allowed Win City to settle in his usual position about five lengths off the lead.

"We had the trip I was expecting, we were sitting fourth or fifth," said Montpellier. "I could see the filly in front of me and she was cruising."

Boulanger also had an eye on Win City when that rival launched a menacing, but wide, bid approaching the quarter-pole. By that time, the rider had already asked his filly to go and she was in front by daylight.

"I spotted him when he was about two lengths off my hip," said Boulanger. "But my filly had been running really relaxed and I knew it was going to take an exceptional horse to run her down."

Dancethruthedawn held on to win by half a length over a charging Win City with Brushing Bully another 3 1/4 lengths back in third. The other filly in the field, longshot Asia, raced evenly to be a surprising fourth. The time of 2:03.78 was just a tick off Dance Smartly's time.

The big disappointment in the race was the eighth-place finish of Millennium Allstar, who was always outrun and never fired.

Dancethruthedawn bears a remarkable resemblance to her famous dam but it was a comparison that Sam-Son owners Liza Samuel (widow of the late Ernie Samuel) and daughter Tammy Samuel-Balaz were reluctant to make too soon.

"Before this race, it was hard to put that kind of weight on her," said Balaz. "She really reminds us of Dance Smartly. She looks like her and cocks her head the same way coming down the stretch. It was phenomenal of her to win the Oaks and then to do this. To have that kind of a bloodline that continues on like that, it's unbelievable."

Ernie Samuel, who died a month before Scatter the Gold won last year's Plate, built a dynasty in Sam-Son, which has also won stakes races this year with Canadian Horse of the Year Quiet Resolve, Only to You, and Mountain Angel, among others.

"This epitomizes everything that he tried to and has done with the breeding program," said Balaz. "What Dad started is so incredible, and he's passed it on to all of us and we take it very seriously."

Dance Smartly produced an A.P. Indy colt this spring and has been bred back to that sire.

"We're hoping that's the next cross that is going to work," said Balaz.


Thrilling Upset

Robert and Scott Fairlie, Brian Brolley, and Ronald Marlow's Mr. Epperson scored an upset in the $223,400 Nearctic Handicap (Can-IIT), the day's co-featured event at six furlongs on the E.P. Taylor turf course.

Mr. Epperson, a six-year-old gelded son of Cabrini Green, rated inside of pacesetting favorite Texas Glitter, who had shipped in from New York for trainer Todd Pletcher, and was one of five horses bearing down on the speedster in deep stretch. At the end of the thrilling stretch drive, Mr. Epperson stuck his neck in front to defeat another American shipper, Airbourne Command. Texas Glitter faded to finish sixth.
The gelding, who ran the distance in a nifty 1:08.86, was ridden by 49-year-old Jim McKnight.

Mr. Epperson was claimed for $50,000 in April of 1999 by trainer Scott Fairlie and had finished second or third in six stakes races in 15 races since then. The Nearctic was the third consecutive win for the gelding since having the blinkers removed.

(Charts, Equibase)

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