Don’t look now, but there is a fast three-year-old filly trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, and carrying the familiar blue silks of Godolphin, who is turning quite a few heads in New York. This fleet filly has been dominating her races of late with the promise of almost unlimited potential, despite a tendency of running erratically down the stretch. But here’s the kicker … her name is not Questing.
Only a few months removed since Questing stormed through the division like a hungry fat man at an all-you-can-eat buffet, in taking Saratoga’s pair of grade one races by a combined 13 ¼ lengths, all the while weaving down The Spa stretch like Otis making his way into a Mayberry jail cell, the same connections now have let Dance Card loose on the racing world. Unlike her more experienced stablemate, Dance Card is a striking grey, as many of the sons and daughters of Tapit tend to be. In many ways, though, she is very much like Questing, and on Saturday, she joined her as a grade 1 winner.
Sent off as the 8-5 favorite, despite the presence of two other very promising fillies, Dance Card waltzed her way to an emphatic four length score in the $350,000 Gazelle at Aqueduct, despite drifting out noticeably in the stretch. The win was her second straight romp in stakes company, following a 7 ½ length runaway in the Belle Cherie at Belmont Park in late September. The back-to-back stakes victories, her 3rd and 4th wins in a row after running 2nd to a good filly in her career debut, announce Dance Card as one of the most exciting new fillies in America, but the penchant for bearing out in the stretch, (she did basically the same thing in the Belle Cherie) is a bit puzzling.
If the leading rider in America, Ramon Dominguez, is right about her, though, the drifting out issue will be nothing to worry about. “When she drifted out in the stretch, she was just looking around,” he said. “I’m not worried about it or complaining about it. She’s a beautiful animal with high cruising speed, and she can pick it up whenever you ask her. She was perfect through the whole race, and down the lane she wanted to drift out some, but she keeps running. She’s special, and I love her.”
Dominguez chose to ride Dance Card for the fifth straight time, despite having the choice to ride the Puerto Rican sensation, My Wandy’s Girl, in the Gazelle. Doing so with great confidence, Dominguez prompted his filly to relax while holding only a narrow lead over the imported filly through average early fractions of :23.92 seconds for the quarter, and a half in :48.62. As My Wandy’s Girl edged closer, and with second choice, and the only horse to ever beat Dance Card, Book Review making a move on the outside, it looked like it might be a good stretch run between the three favorites, but that idea was quickly vanquished. Taking her cue from Dominguez, Dance Card effortlessly gained a working margin, and the result was quickly decided. Opening up a big lead, it made no matter that she drifted out several paths from the far turn to the wire, on her way to coasting home an easy winner over long shot, Sea Island who got up late over My Wandy’s Girl at the wire for second.
Now with four straight wins, the questions becomes the same ones I wondered about Questing not too long ago … just how good might this filly become? And will she run a straight course down the stretch when she needs to? The answers may need to wait a bit, as she will head to Florida for the winter, and it might be a few months before we see her again, but the wait may be well worth it with this one.