Susan Wantz's Dance to Bristol has won seven straight races, five of them stakes, the last three graded -- including her most recent outing, victory by a head over Book Review in the Aug. 23 Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
On Sept. 21 she returns to Belmont Park to prepare for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in the $300,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap, and a salty field of eight other 4-year-old fillies awaits her.
The 6 ½-furlong Gallant Bloom was carded as race nine on the 10-race card, with a scheduled post time of 5:17 p.m. EDT, and is the third leg of the $300,000 Guaranteed Late Pick 4. It drew seven stakes winners, with Dance to Bristol carrying high weight of 121 pounds from the far outside under regular rider Xavier Perez for trainer Ollie Figgins.
At Belmont on June 15, the Speightstown filly earned her first graded score by 2 ¾ lengths in the seven-furlong Bed o' Roses Handicap before taking Saratoga's July 29 Honorable Miss Handicap en route to the Ballerina, her first grade I win.
"I was going to make my decision after I saw how she came out of the race, and she has been doing great and has turned in two good works," Figgins said. "I'm not sure how she maintains her form; if I knew, I'd do it with every horse. She's a professional filly who comes out of her races in good shape, and she's an easy horse to gauge whether she is doing good or not. It makes my job easier."
Holiday Soiree could be dangerous in this spot as she looks to pick up her first graded win. The daughter of Harlan's Holiday took the six-furlong restricted Shine Again Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 5 by 3 ¾ lengths when making her first start for trainer Todd Pletcher and Glencrest Farm. She was purchased for $370,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky summer horses of racing age sale when offered by Run to Win Again Stable and Unlimited Equine.
Earlier this year for those connections and trainer Tevis McCauley, she was second in the Sugar Maple in April at Charles Town Races & Slots, third in the Humana Distaff in May at Churchill Downs, third in the Red Cross in May at Monmouth Park, and fourth in the Princess Rooney Handicap in July at Calder Casino & Race Course. Last year she ran second to Book Review in the Charles Town Oaks.
"She has been a very straightforward filly to train, very professional, likes her job," said Pletcher. "She trained well prior to the race in Saratoga and performed even better than we expected. She came out of it well and we have been targeting the Gallant Bloom since that time. I think it's a step up in class off her last race. She has run in pretty big races in the past, and I think she certainly fits off her 'A' race."
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Holiday Soiree, 4-1, from post 3. She was assigned 117 pounds.
Two of intrigue come in off the layup for the Gallant Bloom -- Godolphin Racing's Dance Card, four-length winner of the Nov. 24 Gazelle Stakes over 1 ⅛ miles at Aqueduct Racetrack last time out, and Turtle Bird Stable's April 13 Distaff Handicap victress Cluster of Stars.
Dance Card, a Tapit filly, finally gets back to the track for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. She won four of five starts last year and is undefeated since breaking her maiden going 1 1/16 miles at Belmont last July. The Gallant Bloom distance will be her shortest outing ever; she was second to Book Review sprinting seven furlongs in her May 20 debut at Belmont in 2012, and only raced at 1 1/16 miles and 1 ⅛ miles for her four consecutive scores. Junior Alvarado rides from post 6 as part of a 117-pound impost.
"She had a couple of chips taken out of ankles, so she has been away a while, but she is back and training great," said McLaughlin. "She's ready to run and this was a spot available. This a very tough race, but if she does run real well she could [run in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint]. We want to go further, but we will have to wait. It's a good step, 6 ½ furlongs to seven furlongs. She's a very nice filly, doing great."
Cluster of Stars, a New York-bred by Greeley's Galaxy, has never been beaten in five starts for trainer Steve Asmussen. She won the six-furlong Distaff by 2 ¾ lengths and also won the Correction Stakes at Aqueduct going the same distance at the beginning of the year, but has been sidelined twice including almost a year between her maiden victory in February of 2012 and her next start, and allowance score on Jan. 13 this year. She gets her first trip over "Big Sandy" having made all five outings at Aqueduct. Javier Castellano rides from the rail; Cluster of Stars also carries 117.
McLaughlin sends Dance Card out as a 7-2 entry with Darley's Villanesca, third in the Ballerina in her most recent start. The Distorted Humor runner is a winner at the Gallant Bloom distance at Belmont, having taken the July 5 Magnolia Jackson overnight stakes by half a length. She has been assigned 115 pounds and David Cohen has the mount from post 2.
Munnings Sister has won three stakes sprinting six furlongs at Belmont, including her latest victory, the June 13 Smart and Fancy Stakes. Also by Speightstown, she was third last out in the July 29 Honorable Miss Handicap for trainer Barclay Tagg and owner Charles Fipke at Saratoga.
Defy Gravity, by Bandini, took the seven-furlong Potomac Handicap at Charles Town on a disqualification after finishing half a length behind Hymn Note for trainer Valora Testerman and has won two in a row. She leaves from the 4 hole for owner Roland Reeley with veteran Mike Luzzi in the irons, but is also cross-entered in the Musical Romance Stakes on the same day at Gulfstream Park.
Completing the field are allowance winners Crespano, a 4-year-old Mineshaft filly trained by Juan Coronel for Bortolazzo Stable, and Classic Point, a 4-year-old Florida-bred daughter of Flatter who races for Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens and Joseph V. Shields.