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HRN Original Blog:
A New York State of Racing

A Couple of Bad Trips Lead to the Winner’s Circle

Dance To Bristol 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Monday morning, which also happened to be the day after the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, I left New Jersey to head back up to Saratoga. I was looking forward to spending a few quiet mid-week days at the Spa. 
My wife and I left at around 7am in order to leave plenty of time for a relaxed drive north.  She was going to spend the day in downtown Saratoga Springs reading and writing while I headed to the track looking forward to seeing the sprinter Dance to Bristol in the Honorable Miss Handicap (G2). The four year-old filly was on a five race win streak with victories at four different tracks, most recently having won the Bed O Roses Handicap (G3) at Belmont Park on June 15th.
I woke up on Monday still excited about the performance of Verrazano in the Haskell and I think I tempted fate a bit too much when I said to my wife, “Maybe we can beat Verrazano to Saratoga so that I can watch his arrival back at Todd’s barn.”  I had heard that Verrazano was going to leave the Pletcher barn at Monmouth Park that same morning and his trip would be about an hour longer than ours.
About an hour south of Saratoga is when the plan fell apart. We had passed Saugerties, heading north on the New York Thruway when I head a strange noise coming from the engine.  It sounded like some leaves or pebbles shaking their way out from under the hood. It didn’t last long and quiet returned, but then the red battery light came on, signaling more trouble. We continued a couple of miles and pulled in to the Malden rest area.
Deciding not to drive the car further, Gallagher’s towing service was dispatched to our rescue. Roger, who was a hard-working 20 year-old wearing jeans that were dark brown with grease and grime, told us that the best chance of a speedy repair was to take a very expensive tow truck ride with him to the Pep Boys outside of Albany. It turned out that Roger was rather charming in certain kinds of ways and that he had been working for 36 straight hours.
The Pep Boys gang: Rick, Bob, and Julia, said that the water pump had seized up and that caused a belt to snap and as a result the alternator was not turning so the battery light had come on. Even though there was no sight of Manny, Moe, and Jack, they got us back on the road by 2:45pm.
The Honorable Miss was carded as race eight, and after dropping my wife at Uncommon Grounds on Broadway, I managed to get to the track with 20 minutes left before the seventh.
Dance to Bristol is the kind of horse that you have to love. A $42,000 yearling purchase at the 2011 May Fasig-Tipton sale is a daughter of Speightstown, who carries a $60,000 stud fee.  She is trained by Ollie Figgins III, who is successful on the Maryland circuit and had only one prior starter at Saratoga, a fourth place in a maiden race years ago.
Dance to Bristol entered the Honorable Miss with a record of 16: 8-7-0 for $500,880.  Her only blemish to the top two finishes was a fourth place in the 2012 Ruthless behind the speedy Agave Kiss after she bobbled at the break.
Dance to Bristol was heavily bet to be an odds-on favorite at .85-1. In her five-race win streak she had always been lucky and had advantageous trips. Not today, Dance to Bristol was going to have bad trip for the first time. After our trouble filled journey, I had a bit more sympathy for the idea of a bad trip.
Trainer Figgins said, “This was not the cleanest of trips she’s ever had, and you don’t know how she is going to react because she’s always had nice, perfect trips. This is the toughest field she’s ever run against.”
She had to race “three wide and steady off heels briefly near the seven-sixteenth poll” and she fell four-lengths behind. Regular rider Xavier Perez found a seam in the traffic and Dance to Bristol made a dramatic charge down the stretch to win by a neck over Classic Point, who was trained by the “Giant Killer” Allen Jerkens.
Her now six-race win streak began at Laurel this winter when she won two OC allowances. In April she won the Sugar Maple, a $200,000 stake at Charles Town. In May the fourth consecutive victory came in the Skipat at Pimlico on the day before the Preakness. With her two most recent wins in New York graded stake races, Dance to Bristol has joined the leaders of the female sprint division.
Figgins said that, “She’s a pleasure around the barn, absolutely no trouble at all.” When she was getting in the paddock getting saddled she was a handful and as Perez came to get a leg up she was on her toes, exuding strength and power. “She’s like a fighter a bit. She wants to get on with it,” added Figgins.
It turned out to be a rather long trouble filled day for me, but it ended up being a very special day when I got to see Dance to Bristol overcome her bad trip, too.  


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Older Comments about A Couple of Bad Trips Lead to the Winner’s Circle...

Thanks, Brian.
Between the water pump and the check on the turn, I'm surprised that either of you made it. After yesterday, I have no doubt that Dance To Bristol is the real deal ... I already knew you were.

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Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.


Matt’s articles and tweets frequently appear in the America’s Best Racing weekly Notebook. In 2012 he became a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.


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