When Ollie Figgins III sends out Dance to Bristol in the Nov. 2 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I), the 4-year-old daughter of Speightstown will be the second World Championships starter—but really the first legitimate contender—for the Mid-Atlantic-based trainer.
Figgins, 39, saddled Rouse the Cat to a 12th-place finish in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita Park in 2008. "He wasn't her same caliber of horse," Figgins said this week after watching his Filly & Mare Sprint entrant gallop 1 1/4 miles. "I claimed him for $10,000 at Charles Town and got him to the Breeders' Cup. I thought that was amazing. He was second in two grade II's."
One of nine horses Figgins has for Susan and David Wantz, who operate Copperfield Farm in Taneytown, Md., Dance to Bristol will be taking on last year's champion Groupie Doll and locally-based grade I winner Book Review in the Breeders' Cup.
But Figgins, the son of a jockey who had his own brief career as a rider before taking out his trainer's license in 2005, is not intimidated by the level of competition. After all, since rising through the ranks of allowance and non-graded competition in West Virginia and Maryland, Dance to Bristol won the Bed o' Roses (gr. III), Honorable Miss (gr. II), and Ballerina (gr. I) on the bigger New York circuit.
Along the way, she dispatched some of the competition she'll face at the Breeders' Cup, including Book Review and Dance Card.
Dance to Bristol, purchased for $42,000 from the 2011 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May 2-year-olds in training sale, comes into the World Championships with a record of 10 wins and nine second-place finishes from 19 starts, with earnings of $980,880. She will break from the 8 post under regular rider Xavier Perez.
Previous to the Breeders' Cup, Dance to Bristol finished second to Cluster of Stars in the Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II) over a good track at Belmont Park, ending a seven-race win streak.
Figgins says he is not surprised by what the filly bred in Kentucky by Mr. and Mrs. David Garner has accomplished, considering how she did it.
"We just gradually eased her into it and she took it one step at a time," he said. "If we had gone from an overnight stake to a grade I, I would have been surprised. Every step just seemed logical."
The trainer said his filly's greatest attribute is her ability to use her tactical speed to lay just off the early leaders and then position herself for a win. He hopes she will use that tactical speed to full advantage Nov. 2.
"She's not a deep closer and she's not a run-off speed horse," Figgins said. "She's a filly you can put wherever you want her. You can breeze her 1:03 or :58. Whatever you want her to do, she will do."