Love That Dance, a multiple stakes winner for the Ben Perkins Jr. barn, looms the one to beat in the $60,000 Honey Bee Stakes Friday night at Meadowlands Racetrack.

The daughter of Not For Love tops a field of 11 three-year-old fillies set to fly in the mile and a sixteenth event. She is rated at 4-1 on the morning line from post 10 with Elvis Trujillo listed to ride. Bred and owned by John Petrini, Love That Dance enters the Honey Bee with a career slate of five wins, four seconds and one third in 16 career starts. Two of her three wins last season came at the Meadowlands, where she closed out her freshman campaign with a five-length win over a sloppy track in the New Jersey Juvenile.

"Being a Not For Love, she has a nice pedigree," said Perkins. "She really showed she had talent from the first day she came into the barn last summer. She ran well as a 2-year-old, so we put her away for a while after the Jersey Juvenile and hoped we would have a nice 3-year-old. Based on her pedigree - she's out of a Broad Brush mare [Broad Exchange] - we thought there'd be some distance in there, so we planned for her 3-year-old career to stretch her out."

Love That Dance took a little longer to find her rhythm this season. After lackluster performances in her first few stakes engagements at Aqueduct, Love That Dance shipped to Monmouth Park where she wired the field in the $60,000 Open Mind Handicap on May 31 and was narrowly beaten in the $70,00 Trenton Stakes and $60,000 Spruce Fir Handicap.

"She started a little slow for us this year," Perkins said. "She came around in the summer and she's been very consistent for us since then. We took her into New York early and she just never settled in. I don't know if it was the test barn they had there. She was a little nervous and she certainly didn't run there like she ran as a 2-year-old, so we were happy to get her back to Monmouth. She settled in there and her first real good race was the Open Mind. She showed that day the kind of talent that we knew she had. Since then, she's been ultra-consistent."

Love That Dance led every step of the way to win the $100,000 Maryland Million Oaks on Sept. 26 at Laurel, holding off Blind Date at the wire for her biggest paycheck to date.

"The mile at Laurel is actually a one-turn race," Perkins said. "They run from a 7 1/2 chute, then they actually run an extra sixteenth past the main wire, so you have a really long stretch. There wasn't a lot of early speed in the race. I told Carlos Marquez [who rode the filly that day] that if you can get the lead, she would relax for you and just stay there as long as you can. That was a legitimate filly that was second [Blind Date]. She had won a couple of graded stakes and she looked like she had dead aim on us in the straightaway for home. Our filly was pretty game the entire length of the stretch, and it is a long stretch with that extra sixteenth."

Love That Dance enters the Honey Bee off a fourth-place finish in the Poker Night Stakes on Nov. 1 at Aqueduct.

"She likes to run free and be near the front end," Perkins noted. "In [the Poker Night Stakes], she stumbled a bit and got behind, and she never likes to be behind. She likes to be in the clear. I know there's a lot of speed in the race. With the outside post, I think if she can stay clear in a good tracking position, she'll run her race. She likes the track [at the Meadowlands]. It's a real good speed track. She's got good early speed and she has distance speed where she can keep clicking off the same fractions. It seems to me that the horses can always stretch out a little further at the Meadowlands. They've got the perfect surface and when they do, they can stretch out a little further."


The field for the Honey Bee:
Post, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer

1, Patience Drive , Rajiv Maragh, 117, Seth Benzel, 6-1
2, Perfect Wedding, Daniel Centeno, 117, Kiaran McLaughlin, 6-1
3, Pilot Point Lady, Frankie Pennington, 117, David Dotolo, 12-1
4, Our Khrysty, Oliver Castillo, 117, Todd Beattie, 10-1
5, Oro Blanco, Jose Lezcano, 117, Timothy Tullock Jr., 8-1
6, Autumn Ash, Pedro Cotto, Jr., 117, Stephen DiMauro, 20-1
7, Roxyana, Joe Bravo, 117, Mark Hennig, 9-2
8, Stage Trick, Channing Hill, 117, Alan Goldberg, 6-1
9, Saar Treaty, Anna Rose Napravnik, 117, Tim Woolley, 15-1
10, Love That Dance , Elvis Trujillo, 121, Ben Perkins Jr., 4-1
11, Lady Alexander, Chuck C. Lopez, 117, Bruce Alexander, 6-1