‘Hard-Running’ Step Dancer Should Appreciate Extra Distance In Jockey Club Derby

Hayward Pressman, Diamond M Stable and Donna R. Pressman’s New York-bred Step Dancer will step into elite company in Saturday’s $1 million Jockey Club Derby Invitational, a 12-furlong test on the Widener turf at Belmont Park.

The Jockey Club Derby, which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1, $4 million Longines Turf in November at Del Mar, is the final leg of NYRA’s Turf Triple series for males that commenced with the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Derby [won by Bolshoi Ballet] in July and continued with the Grade 1, $1 million Saratoga Derby [won by State of Rest] in August at historic Saratoga Race Course.

The Jockey Club Derby is slated as Race 10 on Saturday’s lucrative 11-race card which will also feature the 1 3/8-mile $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks, the concluding leg of the Turf Triple series for 3-year-old fillies, in Race 9; and the 1 5/8-mile $300,000 Grand Prix American Jockey Club Invitational in Race 4.

Trained by Barclay Tagg, Step Dancer showed promise as a juvenile posting a 24-1 debut win traveling 1 1/16 miles on the Saratoga turf last September before finishing third in the Grade 2 Pilgrim in October at Belmont Park. The War Dancer bay completed a solid campaign with a three-quarter length score against open company in the 1 1/16-mile Awad over yielding Belmont turf on October 31.

Tagg said he appreciates Step Dancer’s willingness to compete.

“I’ve watched a lot of horses over the years. Everything you see about him in the morning gives you confidence. He’s an athlete,” said Tagg.

Bred in the Empire State by Sugar Plum Farm and Richard Pressman, Step Dancer launched his sophomore campaign in March with an off-the-board effort in the Cutler Bay at Gulfstream Park ahead of a close third in a 1 1/16-mile New York-bred allowance optional claimer on May 13 at Belmont Park.

Step Dancer was a late-closing second in the seven-furlong NYSSS Spectacular Bid on June 19 at Belmont and will enter Saturday’s test on a high note after overcoming a troubled start in the one-mile NYSSS Cab Calloway on July 28 at the Spa, rallying four-wide down the lane to defeat his fellow eligible New York-sired rivals.

Tagg said he wasn’t surprised by the game effort.

“He’s a hard-running horse. He likes to do it,” Tagg said. “I don’t know if he’s a great horse or not, but I have a lot of confidence in him. He tries every time.”

Tagg said Step Dancer should appreciate the significant stretch out in distance.

“I’ve never felt like he couldn’t run long. I might change my mind this coming Sunday, but not yet,” Tagg said with a laugh. “He’s always seemed like he could go a distance. Anything you ask him to do, he does it. He loves his sport. Some horses are just like that.”

Jockey Dylan Davis has never finished off the board in five starts piloting Step Dancer and will retain the mount from post 5 in a field headlined by European raiders Bolshoi Ballet and Yibir.

The veteran conditioner said he will let Davis work out a sensible trip.

“It all depends on the pace of the race as you go along. You can be laying fifth and it might be just like taking him back in another race,” Tagg said. “Dylan’s a good rider. He’s intelligent and fearless. He’s ridden very well for me.”

Tagg has enjoyed great success with New York-breds in his career, capturing two-thirds of the 2003 Triple Crown [Kentucky Derby and Preakness] with Funny Cide, and completing the set last year with Tiz the Law’s popular score in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.

Step Dancer, who will look to add another New York-bred moment to Tagg’s impressive ledger, posted an easy five-furlong breeze in 1:01.85 Sunday on the Belmont inner turf in his final preparation for Saturday’s test.

“He went fine. I don’t think they have to go out there and show off every time they breeze. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,” said Tagg.

Regardless of the result on Saturday, Tagg said he appreciates Step Dancer’s winning spirit.

“He’s a very honest horse. Tried and true,” Tagg said. “They’re [good horses] hard to find but he is one and no matter how he runs on Saturday, he’s alright by me.”

The post ‘Hard-Running’ Step Dancer Should Appreciate Extra Distance In Jockey Club Derby appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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