The competition among trainers after 2 ½ months of the meet at Calder Casino & Race Course never has been more competitive with five horsemen tied for the lead going into Sunday's program with 12 wins each, including 11-time Calder meet titlist Bill White along with Steve DiMauro, Fred Warren, Steve Dwoskin and Chris Gatis.
Trainers Marty Wolfson and David Fawkes each sent out the winners of two stakes races on Saturday's rich Summit of Speed program and moved into a four-way tie for sixth in the standings at 11 each with Eddie Plesa, Jr. and Bill Kaplan. However, Wolfson is easily on top in purse earnings for the meet with $676,000 and Fawkes ranks a clear second at $433,000, both totals significantly boosted on Saturday.
While there is a logjam in the title chase among trainers, the jockey standings continues steady with 18-year-old Panamanian Luis Saez on top with 72, 15 more than 40-year-old veteran and defending meet champion Manoel Cruz second with 57, followed by apprentice Angel Moreno a clear third with 36. Saez lost his apprentice allowance a week ago.
Cruz was aboard Terra Di Sienna Stable's 3-year-old filly Pica Slew winning the $150,000 Azalea Stakes (G3) for trainer Joe Calascibetta Saturday and Quantum Racing Team #1's 5-year-old Mambo Meister to finish second in the $350,000 Smile Sprint Handicap (G2) for trainer Phil Gleaves.
Three other former Calder riding champions now based elsewhere were in town to ride the winners of the other three Graded stakes on the Summit card in addition to the Azalea - Eibar Coa, Elvis Trujillo and Jermaine Bridgmohan.
Coa, four-time Calder meet champion and four-time Tropical-at-Calder leader, was aboard Harold Queen's 4-year-old Big Drama for Fawkes in the Smile Sprint and his 2-year-old half-brother Little Drama to romp home a 9 ½ lengths winner of the $100,000 Frank Gomez Memorial earlier on the card. Coa had posted his 4,000th career win Friday at Monmouth Park.
Bridgmohan rode a record 110 winners to capture the 2006-07 Tropical championship when he was an apprentice. He has made several weekend trips into Calder at this meet to ride stakes horses for trainer Marty Wolfson and was aboard Gary Barber's 3-year-old Coffee Boy Saturday to upset 1-to-10 favorite D'Funnybone in the $200,000 Carry Back Stakes (G2).
Trujillo won the 2007 Calder meet title and was back Saturday from Monmouth Park to ride three winners on the card, most importantly Farnsworth Stable's 6-year-old mare Jessica Is Back to an 8-to-1 upset in the $350,000 Princess Rooney Handicap (G1) for Wolfson.
Of the 16 invaders for the Summit races the only winner was Michael Dubb's 7-year-old gelding Tahoe Warrior in the $100,000 Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint with Edgar Prado aboard for trainer Rudy Rodriguez after the son of Carson City was claimed for $20,000 out of his last start at Belmont Park.
The shippers went home with three runner-up efforts in the Graded stakes as Churchill Downs-based trainer Eddie Kenneally sent out Avalon Farms' 3-year-old filly Buckleupbuttercup to finish second in the Azalea and Joseph Sutton's 4-year-old filly Warbling to finish second as the favorite to Jessica Is Back in the Princess Rooney.
The Carry Back was expected to be a triumphant homecoming of sorts for Paul Pompa, Jr.s' 3-year-old D'Funnybone as the son of D'wildcat had made his first two career starts here last year for breeder Harold Plumley and trainer Joe Calascibetta. Sold privately and sent to trainer Rick Dutrow, D'Funnnybone had won five Graded stakes since then before being upset by Coffee Boy.
Schweiker Picks ‘Cold Trifecta' in Smile Sprint
Calder Publicity Manager/Handicapper Anthony Schweiker correctly selected the first three finishers of the $350,000 Smile Sprint Handicap (G2) on the Saturday morning New York OTB television show hosted by track announcer Bobby Neuman, predicting that the big prize money for the race would remain with Calder-based horsemen despite the presence of several highly-accomplished invaders from New York.
It was no big surprise that Harold Queen's 4-year-old Big Drama won the race as the 9-to-5 favorite or that Quantum Racing Team #1's 5-year-old gelding Mambo Meister rallied for second at better than 5-to-1, but filling out the trifecta combination of 10-3-6 was owner-trainer Brian Prichard's 7-year-old veteran How's Your Halo at odds of 73-to-1 to complete a payoff of $566.40 for $2.
How's Your Halo was competing in the race for the fourth consecutive year after finishing fourth in 2007, second as a 50-to-1 longshot in 2008 behind Eclipse champion Benny the Bull and fourth again in last year's renewal. Saturday, the son of Halo's Image was making only his second start since the Smile last summer after finishing last of four behind Big Drama in the Ponche Handicap over the track on June 12.