SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Step Dancer used a strong stretch-drive finish from the outside to run down pacesetter Dreamer’s Disease in the final jumps, edging his rival by a neck to capture Wednesday’s $150,000 New York Stallion Stakes Series Cab Calloway over Saratoga Race Course’s inner turf.
Step Dancer, owned by Hayward Pressman, Diamond M Stable and Donna R. Pressman, won for the first time in four starts as a sophomore and improved to 2-for-2 at the Spa after winning his debut here over the turf last September. The 19th running of the Cab Calloway was for eligible Empire State-sired 3-year-olds going one mile.
The victory for the War Dancer colt was far from assured, as Dreamer’s Disease surged to the front from the inside post under David Cohen, leading the eight-horse field through an opening quarter-mile in 23.80 seconds, the half in 48.77 and three-quarters in 1:12.68 over firm going.
Step Dancer, under jockey Dylan Davis, tracked in sixth, a position he maintained exiting the final turn. But Davis tipped out his charge when straightened for home and Step Dancer relished the open daylight in front, gaining ground on Dreamer’s Disease with every stride in the final furlong before collaring him right before the wire, completing the course in a 1:35.83 final time.
“Right out of the gate, he got squeezed and I was hoping to get some earlier position,” Davis said. “After that, I had to go to Plan B, save all the ground into the first turn and I was happy with where I was at. Into the second turn, I was able to save ground again throughout maybe three quarters of that turn. The one horse [Dreamer’s Disease] was getting away down the stretch, so I had to get into him a little earlier and he had a lot of ground to make up, but he was on a mission. He made up that ground nicely and ran superb today.
“He had to make up a lot of ground,” Davis added. “He came with a mission when I asked him turning for home. He really wanted to beat the one horse.”
The Barclay Tagg trainee won a stakes for the first time since the open-company Awad in October at Belmont Park, improving to 3-1-2 in seven career starts overall.
“Dylan rode him the only way you can ride him,” Tagg said. “He always rides him well. Sometimes, he needs to get loose a little faster, but he can’t always do it.
“He got him out of there and got him running off the quarter pole, which is as good as you can do it,” Tagg continued. “He knows how to ride him and I’m satisfied with Dylan’s ride today, that’s for sure.”
Step Dancer, the 7-5 favorite, paid $4.90 on a $2 win wager. He increased his career earnings to $219,800. Bred in New York by Sugar Plum Farm and Richard Pressman, Step Dancer finished third in the Grade 2 Pilgrim at second asking in October at Belmont.
“I’d like to try him against open company again,” Tagg said. “Maybe not the next race, but we’ll see. He’s definitely good enough.”
Dreamer’s Disease, who ran sixth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November at Keeneland for trainer Robertino Diodoro, earned runner-up status in his Saratoga bow, besting It’s Gravy by 4 3/4 lengths.
“The winner obviously ran a big race. My horse did extremely well,” Cohen said. “I’m happy that he bounced back after that last race and ran to what we thought he could do. He’s a very versatile horse and I’m happy that he showed up today.”
Gator Bite, Barrage, Devious Mo, Ocala Dream and Tales of Saratoga completed the order of finish. Market Alert, entered for the main track only, was scratched.
Thursday will feature a 10-race card at Saratoga highlighted by the $100,000 John Morrissey Handicap for New York-bred 3-year-olds and up going 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track in Race 9 at 5:39 p.m. Eastern. First post is 1:05 p.m.
By Brian Bohl/NYRA Press Office
Photo: Step Dancer (NYRA/Kylie Wellington)