With eyes undoubtedly focused skyward as a week of ominous weather is forecast for south Florida, Frank C. Calabrese’s Memorial Day Handicap winner Where’s Sterling and Jessica Colon’s Miami Mile hero Imperial Czar, both of which captured those stakes over the Calder Casino & Race Course main track, lead a full field of 12 that was entered for Saturday’s $55,000 Mecke Stakes, scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on the turf.
Trained by Luis Ramirez, Where’s Sterling is the most accomplished runner in the Mecke field, having amassed over $400,000 in career earnings while visiting the winner’s circle on four occasions. A Grade 3 winner that missed by less than four lengths in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap in February, the son of Northern Afleet was never more impressive than when winning the Memorial Day Handicap by 7 ½ lengths in his last start.
Jockey John Delgado, aboard Where’s Sterling for that winning performance, returns to the saddle on Saturday and will guide the 5-year-old on his nine-furlong journey from post 11.
Imperial Czar was beaten over 10 lengths by Where’s Sterling in the Memorial Day Handicap, but prior to that performance the Saul Matos trainee had pieced together consecutive wins, including a ¾-length triumph in the $125,000 Miami Mile Handicap, which was his second stakes victory over the local dirt.
Assigned post three at Monday’s draw, Imperial Czar will be teamed with regular rider Jesus Rios.
Luis Duco stables, Inc.’s Empire Builder, the lone 3-year-old in the Mecke field, is also a main track stakes winner at the meet, taking the $55,000 Mambo Meister by a half-length in what was likely the best effort of the colt’s young career. But unlike rivals Where’s Sterling and Imperial Czar, Empire Builder, a son of Kitten’s Joy, has enjoyed success over the turf and is a likely contender on either surface.
Apprentice rider Jonathan Gonzales, who won his first career stakes race when taking the Mambo Meister with Empire Builder, retains the mount and will start from post four.
Trainer Chris Gatis has an intriguing pair of runners entered for the Mecke in his and Chester A. Bishop’s Tale of a Champion and Buckeye Stable’s Liberty Cap.
Tale of a Champion, a turf-loving son of Tale of the Cat, has won three of four lifetime starts, two of which came over the local lawn, while Liberty Cap is a four-time winner on grass that may have been at his very best when defeating starter allowance rivals on the Calder dirt in his last.
Tale of a Champion will start from post nine with Manoel Cruz named to ride, while Liberty Cap and jockey Jozbin Santana will travel the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Mecke from post 12.
Other Mecke entrants of note include Caroni Stable’s Oligarch, winner of last fall’s $75,000 Tropical Park Derby; Stipa Racing Stable, Inc.’s Numb Lips, second to Imperial Czar in the Miami Mile Handicap; and Javier Negrete’s Wingedlie, a main track stakes winner at Calder in 2010.
Completing the field for the Mecke Stakes is Chasing Tails Stables’ Devon Rock, JMS Investments, LLC’s Navy Wings, and Dr. Derek K and Kimberly Paul’s Sky Venture. George Santis’ Karamanos is listed as an also-eligible for the race.
The Mecke Stakes is scheduled as race 10 on a 12-race Saturday program from Calder with an approximate post time of 4:59 p.m.