While the main focus of Saturday’s $100,000 Birdonthewire Stakes at Calder Casino & Race Course is sure to be the heavyweight showdown between the stakes-winning trio of Brave Dave, Sr. Quisqueyano, and Two T’s At Two B, the role of race spoiler could fall to the Jason DaCosta-trained Mind Spell, a promising colt that was a seven-length winner when breaking his maiden earlier this month.
“I picked him out at the sale and always had high expectations for him,” DaCosta said of the $50,000 April 2012 Ocala Breeders’ Sale purchase. “When he won his race, he did it so easy that when he came back from it in good shape, we immediately pointed him to this race.”
In preparation for the Birdonthewire, which will be the son of Proud Accolade’s stakes debut, Mind Spell has posted a pair of morning workouts, breezing a half-mile in :49.80 on September 17 before returning with a five-furlong drill that was clocked in 1:03.80 on September 23.
“I’m very happy with work,” DaCosta said of last Sunday’s move. “It had rained and the track was a little off and had some moisture in it, so the time wasn’t overwhelming, but he got out of it just what we were looking for.”
Having shipped to the barn of DaCosta in early May, Mind Spell made his debut back on July 28 and was highly regarded when sent from the gate as the second favorite in the race with local leading rider Luis Saez aboard.
“I was hoping for better,” DaCosta said of the colt’s inauspicious sixth-place finish that day. “But he was a little slow getting out of the gate and then another horse came over and bumped him pretty good, so in my opinion he never had a chance to run. But he came back from that race and showed what he could do when winning his next start.”
The step up in class from a maiden victory to a stakes race is always a difficult endeavor, but the Saturday task that Mind Spell will face is made all the more difficult by the inclusion of several accomplished stakes winners in the Birdonthewire field, making it a highly contentious event, perhaps the strongest stake run at Calder this year.
“It’s a tough race, there is no doubt about that,” DaCosta said “But I can’t worry about the other horses in there and what they are capable of doing. I just have to focus on my horse and make sure that he runs his race. If he does, I feel confident in his chances.”
That confidence is surely boosted by the presence of Saez, a four-time leading rider at Calder that currently sits atop the jockey standings and has won four of the last eight stakes run.
“Absolutely it’s an advantage having Saez,” DaCosta said. “He likes him and wants to ride him, and the way he has been riding, that can only be good.
“If I could change one thing, I’d rather not have the rail,” DaCosta continued. “But he’s had it for each of his first two starts, so maybe he’ll be a little more comfortable starting from there. And I know that Saez knows how to ride him from there.”
SALAMERA IN CHANDELIER
With two-time local stakes-winning juvenile filly Rose to Gold currently at Keeneland preparing to carry the Calder flag to battle in next weekend’s Grade 1 Alcibiades, Tanourin Stable’s J J’s Dream heroine Salamera will look to land a west coast blow for south Florida racing when starting in the Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Santa Anita on Saturday.
Trained by Rodolfo Garcia, Salamera won her career debut at Calder on May 26 before returning five weeks later to take the J J’s Dream. The filly was subsequently shipped to Saratoga for the Grade 2 Adirondack Stakes where she crossed the wire second, beaten less than three lengths for everything.
Jockey Angel Castillo, aboard Salamera for her J J’s Dream victory, will once again team up with the daughter of Successful Appeal, who has been installed as the 5-1 third-choice for the 1 1/16-mile race.
Post time for the Chandelier, which goes as the sixth race on a stakes-laden Santa Anita card, is 6:36 p.m. EDT.