With the Dubai World Cup program occupying the morning and early afternoon hours, and the stakes-laden Florida Derby card set to carry race fans through to the early evening, some might argue that Saturday represents the first major racing day on the 2012 calendar.
And from the desert backdrop of Dubai to the shores of Hallandale Beach, several locally-based horses are prepared to carry the Calder flag into battle, headlined by a trio of combatants in the Grade 1 Florida Derby.
There wasn’t a better 2-year-old at Calder last year than Fort Loudon, a winner of four straight races that included a sweep of the Florida Stallion Stakes with victories in the Dr. Fager, Affirmed, and In Reality divisions.
The Stanley Gold-trained son of Awesome of Course was subsequently seventh in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and has since returned with a fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Holy Bull and a troubled fifth in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth.
Luis Jurado, who was aboard for all three of the Florida Stallion Stakes victories, reunites with Fort Loudon for the Florida Derby.
Reveron was a two-time winner at Calder in 2011, breaking his maiden by six lengths in early November before returning with an equally impressive allowance win just three weeks later. The colt would go on to win the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby and was most recently third, beaten 1 ¼ lengths, in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa.
Reveron starts from post nine in the Florida Derby with Elvis Trujillo to ride for Agustin Bezara.
Bartolome, a six-length maiden winner in his Calder debut last year and the third-place finisher in last year’s $88,000 Foolish Pleasure, completes the Calder-based Florida Derby contingent. Jesus Castanon is scheduled to ride for Jose Garoffalo.
Post time for the Florida Derby is 5:40 p.m.
One race prior to the Florida Derby, last year’s Joe O’Farrell Juvenile Fillies winner Yara will look to prove her 64-1 upset in the Grade 2 Davona Dale wasn’t a fluke when starting in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks.
Trained by Garoffalo, Yara broke her maiden impressively at Calder in September before tallying her five-length O’Farrell Juvenile Fillies score as part of the Florida Million card in mid-November.
Post time for the Gulfstream Park Oaks is 5:03 p.m.
Calder-based horses will fire their first shot of the day during the late-morning hours when last year’s Grade 2 Smile Sprint winner Giant Ryan makes his seasonal debut in the $2 million Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen from Meydan Racecourse.
Conditioned by 2010-11 Tropical Meet leading trainer Bisnath Parboo, Giant Ryan was a winner of six straight races last year, including the Grade 1 Vosburgh Invitational and the $75,000 Ponche Handicap, before concluding his campaign with an eighth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
Post time for the Dubai Golden Shaheen is 11:35 a.m.