The 13th annual Summit of Speed program, featuring six stakes worth a combined $1.3 million in purse money, will showcase some of the fastest sprinters in the region, with Pinnacle Racing Stables and Bill Kaplan’s Eclipse Award winning millionaire female sprinter Musical Romance atop the playbill for the centerpiece event of the Calder Casino & Race Course season, the Grade 1 $400,000 Princess Rooney Handicap.
Conditioned by Kaplan, Musical Romance suffered a tough beat in last year’s Princess Rooney when caught in the final yards and beaten a neck for everything by Sassy Image. Rather than sulk following that defeat, the daughter of Concorde’s Tune would go on to win the Grade 2 Presque Isle Masters and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint en route to the divisional title.
Last seen finishing second to Groupie Doll in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff, Musical Romance will start from post five in the Princess Rooney and will have regular pilot Juan Leyva in the saddle.
The biggest threat to Musical Romance’s Summit of Speed supremacy is likely to come from Gem Inc.’s Nicole H, a Grade 2-winning mare that exits a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Vagrancy at Belmont Park where she was beaten a neck.
Trained in New York by Michael Hushion, but to be saddled on Saturday by Dave Fawkes, Nicole H has found the wire first in seven of 22 starts, with her biggest triumph to date coming in the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct in April 2011. And while that race was contested at the distance of seven furlongs, Nicole H is every bit as solid at six furlongs, where she is a six-time winner in 11 tries.
Assigned post nine at Monday’s post-position draw, Nicole H will be ridden by Cornelio Velasquez.
Right Time Racing, LLC’s northern invader Bouquet Booth, a powerful six-length winner when cutting back to six furlongs for a top-shelf allowance at Churchill Downs in her last, drew post seven in the Princess Rooney for trainer Steve Margolis and jockey Shaun Bridgmohan.
Last year, during her 3-year-old season, the daughter of Flower Alley was a regular participant in two-turn stakes, winning the $100,000 Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds before posting a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Ashland and a close fifth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.
Trainer Marty Wolfson has entered a record six horses in the Princess Rooney, led by last year’s third-place finisher Indulgence, who starts for Silverton Hill LLC; recent California-import Spectacular Sky, carrying the colors of Farnsworth Stables; and Cool Air Stakes runner-up Nakano, representing Thoroughbred Futures Racing.
Blue Heaven Farm, LLC’s Leopard Rock and the Farnsworth Stables, LLC-owned pair of Beloveda and Golden Mystery complete the Wolfson sextet.
Completing the field for the Princess Rooney is Doble Jak Investment’s Flying Trip and Teresa and David Palmer’s Wild Bout Tiffany.
While the Princess Rooney is the marquee race on the Summit of Speed program, perhaps the deepest field of sprinters will gather for the Grade 2 Smile Sprint, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In race that attracted 10 entrants, with Brittlyn Stable, Inc.’s Gantry the likely favorite.
Trained by Ron Faucheux, Gantry had strung together three straight sprint-stakes wins at Fair Grounds prior to his recent third-place finish in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes where he chased home 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford and last year’s Eclipse Award winning champion sprinter Amazombie.
Gantry drew post 10 for the Smile Sprint, and will be ridden by top Louisiana Downs jockey Richard Eramia.
Shivananda Racing’s sophomore sensation Trinniberg, cross-entered in the Smile Sprint and the Grade 3 Carry Back, which is restricted to 3-year-olds, would make an intriguing Smile entrant should he be given the opportunity to test older horses for the first time on Saturday.
Trained by Bisnath Parboo, Trinniberg is a three-time graded stakes winner this year with victories in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens, Grade 3 Bay Shore, and Grade 3 Swale Stakes. The son of Teuflesberg was victorious in his lone Calder appearance, a 5 ¾-length maiden-breaking win on July 8, 2011.
Trinniberg, to be ridden by Willie Martinez, drew post three for the Smile.
No winner at the meet may have been more impressive than Edward Seltzer and Larry Baum’s Field Commission, a commanding 3 ¼-length winner of the $75,000 Ponche Handicap, the local prep for the Smile Sprint.
That outing was the son of Service Stripe’s first career effort on dirt after spending the first 28 starts of his career competing on turf and synthetic surfaces at Woodbine, where he was a Grade 2 winner. The Ponche was also the 7-year-old’s first start off an 18-month layoff.
Conditioned by Curtis Garrison, Field Commission will start from post five in the Smile Sprint, with Manoel Cruz to ride.
Donald Dizney’s Apriority, winner of the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector in late December; Stud El Aguila’s Indiano, a previous Summit of Speed winner having taken last year’s Grade 2 Carry Back; and Shadybrook Farm, Inc. and Robert Eversole’s Cajun Breeze, second in this year’s $150,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Sprint add further depth to the Smile field.
The decision on whether to run Trinniberg in the Smile Sprint or the Carry Back will change the complexion of either race, with no horse likely to benefit more than Jacks or Better Farm, Inc.’s Fort Loudon, a likely standout in the Carry Back should Trinniberg opt elsewhere.
An impressive winner of the $75,000 Unbridled Stakes and the $75,000 In Summation Stakes in his last two starts, Fort Loudon is a six-time winner in nine local appearances, including a sweep of last season’s Florida Stallion Stakes.
Trained by Stanley Gold, Fort Loudon drew post seven for the Carry Back and will be ridden by Fernando Jara.
The Grade 3 Azalea Stakes attracted nine 3-year-old sprinting fillies, including Lewis Pell, Michael Eigner, and Pinnacle Racing Stables’ Another Romance, upset winner of the $75,000 Leave Me Alone Stakes in her last start; Jacks or Better Farm, Inc.’s Redbud Road, a disappointing seventh in the Leave Me Alone but winner of the $75,000 French Village in her prior start; and White Hall Lane Farm’s Citizen Advocate, caught in the shadow of the wire when second in the Leave Me Alone.
Rick Shanley’s Say a Novena, second in the Grade 3 Old Hat at Gulfstream earlier this year; R N R Stable’s Maryland invader Defy Gravity, a stakes winner at Laurel last year; and Lakshmi Rattan’s Exclusively Maria, who hasn’t started since a win in last year’s $100,000 Cassidy Stakes, help fill out the Azalea field.
The $100,000 Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint, featuring the top two finishers from the Champali in Uno Caliente and Determinato, and the $100,000 Hollywood Wildcat, headed by Grade 3 winner Speak Easy Gal, complete the Summit of Speed program.
The first of the six stakes, the Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint, is scheduled as race seven and will go at approximately 3:37 p.m. The stakes-action continues with the Carry Back at 4:07 p.m., the Azalea at 4:37 p.m., the Smile Sprint at 5:09 p.m., and the Princes Rooney slated for 5:42 p.m. The Hollywood Wildcat completes the stakes-filled program at 6:07 p.m.
First race post time for Saturday’s 12-race program is 12:55 p.m.