Dance To Bristol scourged Saratoga twice this summer. Owned by Susan Wantz, trained by Ollie Figgins III and ridden by Xavier Perez, the 4-year-old filly won the Honorable Miss and the Ballerina. Saturday, she aims to extend her eight-race win streak in the Gallant Bloom. We waded into the archives of The Saratoga Special for more about Dance To Bristol.
The Special: What did you expect when you bought her for $42,000 at Timonium?
Wantz: We mostly breed, we like Speightstown, we picked out four horses, she was one of them, there was another Speightstown, a Half Ours and a Scat Daddy. The reason we bought her was because she was so different than the Speighstowns I've seen, she's big and elegant. There were some issues there, she doesn't scope, she has a very narrow airway, there were reasons people would not be looking at her, but having been around horses, event horses, as long as I have, it didn't scare me. I thought we bought her right, what we've uncovered is amazing. Sometimes you have to say you get lucky and you get blessed.
The Special: What has she taught you?
Wantz: “When I bought her, I felt like we would have a nice allowance horse. Look what she's done, it shows you don't know what you might get in heart and courage, she has more than enough to spare. I can't thank the team enough. It's been a lot of work getting her and keeping her here, that's my job, I love all my horses but she's definitely something special.”
The Special: Why the layoff during her 3-year-old season?
Figgins: We had her in a race at Presque Isle, I think she was first or second choice. She had a bit of heat in her knee, so we took some pictures, nothing major, just a little something. We just stopped, I put a blister on her and she's come back bigger and better, she's a more developed horse.
The Special: When did you think about the Ballerina?
Figgins: After the Bed o' Roses, I thought the Ballerina, just because she handled the seven eighths at Belmont, which is not an easy chore, especially never being there, not training there, she went seven eighths in 20, that's rocking, that's real racehorse time.
The Special: You've been methodical in your approach with her, has that come easy?
Figgins: I had one good horse, he wasn't as good as her, he was second in a couple of grade twos, he was second in the Niarctic, we set out a plan for him and it worked, step by step, it worked. He never won the big one, but he was second in several grade twos. That horse, he was a stair step for me for this type of horse. He was the first true good horse I had, you could train him like a good horse, they could handle it, you have to be prepared for these guys, they're fit and ready to run.
The Special: Describe the relationship you have with her.
Perez: The first time I rode her, she was running against nice fillies, I was surprised Ollie gave me the opportunity. She win easy, I never hit her, she just cruised, from that day we've had a great connection. We bond together. I know when she's ready, she knows when I'm ready. We both feel comfortable together.
The Special: Is she easy to train?
Figgins: She's a good work horse, she eats good, trains good, she's a pleasure. I always feel like she's got a shot.
The Special: What is like to ride for Figgins?
Perez: It's been a good experience riding for him. He always treats his horses like champions. That's what I love. He doesn't get mad. He rode horses, he knows exactly what was on my mind, what was going on in the race, I don't have to give an explanation when I come back. When I came back after the Honorable Miss, he told me exactly what happened around the turn. I was like, 'Whoa, let me be me and tell you what happened.' He's seen it. He was right. He was right.”
The Special: Describe the journey with her.
Figgins: I always liked her, she was slow to come around. She was tall and skinny, real close behind, kind of crabby behind. I was so reluctant to run her, I was like, 'She's just not right. She's just not right.' My brother said, 'Just run her, she's moved like that from day one, just run her.' She drew the 1 hole at Charles Town going four and a half, we got left and she got beat a nose. I said, we've got to take this filly to a mile racetrack, she ran second to a filly of Rodney Jenkins'. He made a point to tell me that his filly was a nice horse. Her next start, she broke her maiden, then she was second in a stake in her first try. She went from the maiden level to the stakes level.”
The Special: Why did you move a string to Bowie?
Figgins: It was for her. It was to get her on a mile racetrack, to work her five eighths at Charles Town, that's two turns. We took 10 to Bowie, but it was all for her. She was at Charles Town until we stopped with her the first time, she was there until her first start off the layoff. We moved her to Bowie after her first start after the layoff. You hope. She got taller and put on a little bit of weight and a little bit of muscle.
The Special: Describe your overall owning/breeding philosophy.
Wantz: My horses retire sound, they either find another career or live out their life. I'm an old event rider, most go into eventing, some are show horses. I have 10 horses in training and three coming up from South Carolina. I have eight pregnant broodmares. I told my husband, we need to start cutting down. I'm getting old, but I love it. It keeps me young, I hope. If you're involved and get to know these animals, it's amazing how much they give back. I always say, and it sound terrible, but animals give back more than most people you meet.
• Watch the Ballerina.
• Watch the Honorable Miss.
• Watch the Bed o' Roses.