Trainer Todd Pletcher sent out two of the six starters in Saturday's 3RD race at Gulfstream Park, a one-mile allowance event for three-year-olds, and most of the attention was focused upon his Cal Nation (Distorted Humor), who was favored at 2-5 off a smashing 7 3/4-length debut maiden score in his previous start. But it was unheralded stablemate DANCE CITY (City Zip) that wound up proving best in a photo finish, re-rallying to the lead in deep stretch to post a nose decision.
Unraced since a 1 1/8-mile maiden special weight victory in the slop on January 21, Dance City cut back to a one-turn distance and set the pace along rail, establishing early splits of :23 3/5 and :46 3/5 under jockey Javier Castellano. Cal Nation was tracking the front runner in third down the backstretch and advanced to challenge Dance City midway on the far turn. Dance City still clung to a narrow lead while reaching the three-quarters point in 1:11, but Cal Nation appeared poised for the victory when sticking a head in front in midstretch.
But Cal Nation could not put away a stubborn Dance City, who gamely battled back along the inside to regain the advantage in the final strides. Owned by the estate of Edward P. Evans, Dance City stopped the teletimer over the fast track in 1:36 4/5 and paid $15.80, $3.80 and $2.20 as the near 7-1 third choice.
"The idea wasn't to run these two horses together," Pletcher said. "We entered Cal Nation in an A-other-than (allowance) for the last few Saturdays, and they didn't go, so we ended up with this. It was a tough choice for Johnny (Velazquez, rider of Cal Nation) because he was working both horses and we liked both horses. It wasn't a case of one being a whole lot better than the other one. I hate to run two horses like that together. We were trying not to, but that's the way it unfolded."
Dance City hails from an outstanding female family. He's out of the winning Ballet Colony (Pleasant Colony), a full sister to multiple Grade 2 queen Dance Colony and a half-sibling to Grade 1 winners Another Review (Buckaroo) and No Review (Nodouble). Dance City's third maternal dam, Dumfries (Reviewer), is a half-sister to multiple Group 1 winner and leading sire Lyphard (Northern Dancer); multiple Grade/Group 1 victor Nobiliary (*Vaguely Noble); and multiple Grade 2 hero Barcas (Sailor). Other notable relatives include Seeking the Pearl (Seeking the Gold), Urbane (Citidancer), Seeking the Dia (Storm Cat), Magical Miss (Danehill) and Suave (A.P. Indy).
Pletcher could still give both Dance City and Cal Nation a chance to make the Kentucky Derby (G1) in one of the remaining prep races.
"We'll talk to the connections, but right now, due to the circumstances, both of them are arriving late on the scene," Pletcher said.