Dance With Fate, a $120,000 graduate of the OBS April Spring Sale of 2-year-olds in training, will seek his first stakes victory for Sharon Aleshia, Bran Jam Stable, and Ciaglia Racing in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Nov. 2.
Bought at OBS by Larry Zap and trainer Peter Eurton, Dance With Fate completed his serious preparations for the Juvenile with a five-furlong work in 1:01 3/5 at Santa Anita Park Oct. 26. Jockey Rafael Bejarano, who has ridden the Florida-bred son of Two Step Salsa in all four of his career starts, was aboard for the drill.
"Honestly, it was a fabulous work," said Zap. "Rafael never moved on him. It was as picture perfect a final drill before a race that you could want.
"The best way to describe Rafael's response to the work was giddy," Zap added. "Rafael loves this horse. He was all smiles after the work. And he doesn't tell us what we want to hear, he tells us what he feels. He's really been a big part of the colt's development."
Trained by Eurton, Dance With Fate is less than two lengths shy of heading into the Breeders' Cup with a pair of grade I victories to his credit. He finished second to Tamarando in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) Sept. 4, beaten only a half-length after a troubled trip. He also checked in second in the Sept. 28 ForeRunner Stakes (gr. I), losing by 1 1/4 lengths to Bond Holder in his two-turn and traditional dirt debut.
"Arguably, he was best in both of those races," said Zap. "If he can draw a good post in the Juvenile and get a nice, stalking position, he should be in good shape. He will need some pace. Hopefully someone goes with Havana early."
Dance With Fate made an immediate impression on Zap at the OBS under tack preview where he was consigned by his breeder, Best a Luck Farm (Tommy and Lori Fackler).
"When I watch previews I watch them with binoculars," Zap said. "I try to gauge the time myself before I look at the official time for the workout. I thought he went an eighth in :10 2/5, and I couldn't believe he went in 10 flat. He had a big, long stride, and was by a sire that people weren't real familiar with at the time."
Dance With Fate is known around the barn as "Baby Slew."
Zap said of the horse's nickname, "He really has a Seattle Slew look. His head resembles Seattle Slew, and he has a ton of leg under him. He actually looks like a big baby."
Dance With Fate comes about the resemblance naturally. His sire, who stands in Ocala, Fla. at Get Away Farm, is out of the Seattle Slew mare Two To Waltz. Two Step Salsa is the leading freshman sire in the Sunshine State and ranks second nationally behind Dunkirk with progeny earnings of $545,222 through Oct. 26. With a bankroll of $155,250, Dance With Fate is Two Step Salsa's leading earner.
"Two Step Salsa was running at the same time I was clocking horses in California," Zap said. "He was one of my favorite horses to watch train. He had freakish speed, but he could carry it a distance. I like buying horses by early sires. They offer a lot of value."
Dance With Fate will be the second Breeders' Cup starter in three years for Zap and Team Eurton following Weemissfrankie, who raced for Aleshia, Bran Jam Stable, Ciaglia Racing and Rob Dyrdek. Zap found Weemissfrankie at the OBS Spring Sale in 2011. The daughter of Sunriver won two grade I events en route to a third-place finish in that year's Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr.II) at Churchill Downs.
"We've done a lot of damage at OBS in April," Zap said. "It all comes down to the individuals. Like a performance vehicle, horses with a long second gear have a high cruising speed."
Zap is a self-proclaimed horse stalker and has been since age 12 when he watched Secretariat win the 1973 Belmont Stakes (gr.I), sweeping the Triple Crown.
"I study everything, and I have since that day," he said. "I want to know what makes one horse better than another one. I measure mechanics and stride length, and I put things down on tape and video. I'm always studying. I also spend a lot of time on social media sharing photos and videos to promote the business. I don't want horse racing to be your grandfather's game. I want people to get involved, and I want them to get excited about the industry."
Zap, who considers himself more a scout than a bloodstock agent, has high praise for his good friend Eurton.
"Peter is a master of horse psychology," Zap said. "He believes you have to train their minds. He sees the long-term picture better than most people, and he's patient with his horses. He puts the horses first, and he's very conscious of how he spends his owner's money. There are very few people that everyone in this business respects. Peter is one of them."
As for Dance With Fate, Zap knows there is a stakes race with his name on it. Despite a competitive field expected to assemble for this year's Juvenile, Zap is confident in Dance With Fate's chances.
"All systems are go," Zap said. "I can't even put into words how gratifying it is to be back at the Breeders' Cup for the second time in three years. And we're not doing this with horses by Tapit or Bernardini . We're doing this with second and third round draft picks. When we spend six figures on a horse, we expect to be in grade I races."