Lexington, KY —- The winningest 3-year-old filly pacer in the United States will line up behind the gate in Saturday night’s (Oct. 15) $100,000 Courageous Lady at MGM Northfield Park but the name may not be a familiar one. With 14 wins thus far this year, Give Me This Dance stands tied atop the win list in her division (with Therealprincess, who has won all her races in the Canadian Maritimes), and she will bring her talents to Ohio this weekend from her home base in Minnesota.
Trainer Justin Anfinson said he received a phone call from Northfield’s race secretary Dave Bianconi inviting his filly pacer and after talking to owners Al and Cheryl Sandbulte of Maurice, Iowa, he accepted. Adding to the connection’s excitement over Give Me This Dance being invited is that Aaron Merriman, the leading driver at Northfield Park who is well on his way to capturing his eighth consecutive North American dash title, has been secured to be in the sulky.
“I just listed (Merriman) first and I got him,” said Anfinson about Merriman, who leads the Northfield colony this year with 428 wins and the continent with 689 victories. “The race is at his track so that’s what I went with.”
Give Me This Dance is a homebred of the Sandbultes as they own both the sire Wind Me Up and the dam Dances On The Wind, a daughter of Cole Muffler. Dances On The Wind is a half-sister to the $522,038 winner Rebellious and the $549,477 winner Btwnurheartnmine, whose biggest career victories came as a 3-year-old in 2008 in the American-National and Kentucky Sires Stakes final.
While Give Me This Dance has taken up residency in the winner’s circle this year, she posted a goose egg last year at two in 13 starts — all in Minnesota — earning just $24,146.
“She was very stubborn — that’s the word I use — and tough to deal with,” said Anfinson. “Things clicked and now she’s only a little tough after the race. She gets pretty wound up and geared up, but that’s it.”
Anfinson said Give Me This Dance was one of three homebred 2-year-old daughters of Wind Me Up owned by the Sandbultes he campaigned last year, which played a role in her always coming up short. Give Me This Dance finished second by a half-length as a 30-1 longshot to her 1-9 stablemate Park With Me Nancy in the Minnesota Sires Stakes final in 2021, which gave hope to her connections.
“It was just the way the year went,” said Anfinson. “One of (the Sandbultes) other ones was very good as a 2-year-old and (Give Me This Dance) was just late coming. It took her a lot longer to learn things.
“Things began to really click for her at the end of the year,” added Anfinson. “She raced great in the (Minnesota) final and almost won.”
Give Me This Dance was sent to California to kick off her sophomore season this year in the spring Sires Stakes contests, and she found the West Coast to her liking as she rattled off seven consecutive victories for trainer-driver Nick Roland while dominating her competition.
Brought back to Minnesota in mid-May, Give Me This Dance finished third in her debut with Roland driving, and then with Dean Magee in the sulky she won three straight, including a career-best 1:53.3 effort in a 3-year-old open on June 9. Her 14th victory this year came last time out on Oct. 8 at Cannon Falls, Minn., where she romped by 10 lengths for Magee in 2:00.2.
Overall, Give Me This Dance arrives at Northfield Park with 14 wins, seven seconds and four thirds in 26 starts this year. Missing just one check, Give Me This Dance has earned $122,226, bringing her career total to $146,372 for the Sandbultes.
Anfinson admits Give Me This Dance has her work cut out for her in the Courageous Lady. She is listed as a 20-1 morning-line longshot, with the honor of 2-1 favorite going to this year’s Pennsylvania Sires Stakes champion Captain Cowgirl, who starts from the trailing nine post in the nine-horse field for driver Tim Tetrick and trainer Jim King Jr.
The 7-2 second choice is Lookatmyrapsheet, the recent runner-up in the Kentucky Sires Stakes Championship final, who starts from post four with Billy Davis Jr. driving for trainer Per Engblom.
“She’s in a little tough but if she can put in an effort she’ll be all right,” said Anfinson.
As for the 34-year-old Anfinson, he began training horses in 2007 after graduating from high school, and he now trains a stable of about 35 on a 100-acre farm owned by his father Brian in Kenyon, Minn., about a half-hour south of Minneapolis/St. Paul.
“I played football, basketball and baseball in high school, and my uncles were (in harness racing) and after sports I needed something to do as far as going forward, and a deal kind of landed in my lap to train horses,” remembered Anfinson. “I took it and off I went.”
Anfinson said he’s looking forward to Give Me This Dance competing in the Courageous Lady.
“I’ve never been invited like this, so yeah, it’s cool,” he said.
The Courageous Lady is scheduled as race 13 on the 15-race card that gets underway at 6 p.m. Complete entries for the card can be found at this link.