In what Calder Casino & Race Course dubs “Thoroughbred racing’s fastest day” there will be plenty of speed worth watching when the Summit of Speed kicks off Saturday at 12:30 pm est. Get there early, as this racing card may come to end about as fast as any one can imagine. Of the 12 races on the card, the longest race of the day is race 5 at 1 1/16 mile. The card concludes with a Graded Stakes Pick 4, beginning with the Grade III Azalea, followed by the Grade II Carry Back, and Grade II Smile Sprint Handicap. The pick 4 then concludes with the feature GI Princess Rooney Handicap. All four races will run at a distance of 6 furlongs over the dirt.
Calder’s marquee event got more attention earlier this week when a few trainers threw their hats into the ring of the Graded Stakes Pick 4. The first surprise came from Todd Pletcher when he entered 3 yr old Cal Nation into the GII Carry Back. After a disappointing 8th place finish in the Jerome Handicap on 4/26 at Aqueduct, the colt bounced back in true form by securing a 6F Allowance win at Belmont on 5/26. His next race seemed almost certain to remain on the NY racing circuit when Pletcher entered Cal Nation into the Jersey Shore Stakes at Monmouth Park on 7/3. However, after the field was set, Pletcher opted to scratch and ship his colt south for what he must think is an easier spot. Flashpoint went on to win the Jersey Shore in impressive fashion, pulling away to win by 7 lengths in the stretch. We’ll see if TP made the right call.
Also adding an element of surprise to the GIII Azalea, is Bob Baffert and Dale Romans. Romans joins the small field of 6 three-year old fillies with Just Louise. Lightly raced in her young career, this filly heads out to the track for only the third time. In her first race since winning the GIII Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs last summer, it will be interesting to see how she returns in her 2011 debut. While she should have a good chance of winning, Baffert’s filly is the one to beat. The unexpected addition of May Day Rose should spice things up in the first race of the Graded Stakes Pick 4. Ridden by Mike Smith for the first time, this filly comes in off back to back wins in the G3 Railbird at Hollywood Park and Instant Racing Stakes at Oaklawn. She is listed as the 8-5 Morning Line favorite.
Rounding out the Graded Stakes Pick 4 is the GI Princess Rooney Handicap. Leading the field of fillies and mares 3 yr old and up is Sassy Image. Standing in the way of 3 consecutive graded stakes victories are 9 very capable contenders. Trained by Dale Romans and owned by his brother Jerry, Sassy Image comes back to Florida a lot hotter than when she left Gulfstream Park in February. Since that time, she moved into Kentucky to score 2 huge wins at Churchill Downs. The first came on the Kentucky Derby undercard, the 7F GI Humana Distaff. She matched her stride on May 30th taking home the 6F, GIII Winning Colors. Both were impressive wins against tough sprint company so unless the heat throws her off her form, it’s going to take a bold effort to derail the Romans Brothers.
The odds on 2nd choice is Champagne d’Oro. While she has been racing for high stakes, finding a spot inside the top 3 hasn’t happened since her last win, the GI Test Stakes at Saratoga last August. It was that race that completed a succesful summer. In three races between June – August of 2010 Champagne d’Oro won twice and finished 2nd once. So maybe she’s just a summer girl. With this being her first race since January at Santa Anita, she has the chance to prove her season of choice in the Florida heat this weekend. Saturday’s high: 89F.
Also gaining buzz is Derwin’s Star. Trained and Owned by Steve Klesaris, Derwin’s Star enters as the third choice at 5-1. After winning the Charles Town Oaks last September, she enjoyed a 9 month layoff before returning this June. She opened up her 4 yr old campaign with an easy win in an optional claimer at Parx Racing. Finally, no one should have problem finding Trainer Martin Wolfson in their programs — he’s written all over this race. Sending a total of 3 horses, he gives himself as good a chance as any with Jehan, Indulgence and Stephanie Got Even.
Grade 1 $350,000 Princess Rooney Handicap – Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 6F, Dirt
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer, Odds
1. Cosmo Girl (KY) L Wade J Petalino 10-1
2. Stephanie Got Even (KY) J Castellano M Wolfson 12-1
3. Champagne d’Oro (KY) D Cohen E Guillot 4-1
4. Indulgence (FL) J Alvarez M Wolfson 12-1
5. Sassy Image (KY) M Smith D Romans 5-2
6. Bella Moneta (FL) J Bridgmohan M Wolfson 10-1
7. Derwin’s Star (FL) K Carmouche S Klesaris 5-1
8. Jehan (KY) L Saez M Wolfson 8-1
9. Don’ttalktome (KY) D Centeno C Stewart 20-1
10. Musical Romance (FL) J Leyva W Kaplan 6-1
I’m finding hard to see any of these horses overcoming Sassy Image and the Romans Brothers. I do think that Champagne d’Oro will get her summer swagger back but it won’t be enough to catch up to Sassy Image. My live longshot in the feature race goes to Cosmo Girl. She’s like it on the pace so look for her to break to the front and try to hang on in the stretch.
Picks: Sassy Image makes it 3 wins in a row. Tri Box: 1-3-5-8 Graded Stakes Pick 4: 5 May Day Rose, 2 Cal Nation, 4 Noble’s Promise, 5 Sassy Image
For a look at the entries and morning line odds for all races during the Summit of Speed, click here. It’s going to be hot and fast in South Florida this weekend. Good luck to all horses, trainers, owners and connections. Stay cool race fans.
Written by: Little Brink