August 16, 2011
By Kent H. Stirling, FHBPA Executive Director
This year’s renewal of the Summit of Speed came within a neck of being yet another Calder sweep of the four Graded Stakes as was accomplished last year. This good fortune for Calder horsemen was on top of recent overnight purse increases of 7 ½ % and 5 %. But let’s get back to the Summit of Speed. Twelve shippers ran on the drying out course rated as “Good” after being listed as “Sloppy” earlier on the card. Fifteen Calder-based horses defended the home course, taking down $647,000 of the $1,050,000 total bounty of the Summit of Speed.
The first of the Summit of Speed Stakes was the Azalea, a $150,000 Grade III for three year old fillies contested at six furlongs. Bob Baffert’s May Day Rose was the overwhelming 3 to 5 favorite, having been the winner of four stakes two of which were Grade III’s in California. Beso Grande who had won her last two starts in stakes at Calder was second choice at 7 to 2, and the third choice at 9 to 2 was Dale Roman’s undefeated Just Louise who had won the Grade III Debutante in her last start at Churchill Downs. The other three horses were Calder-based long shots at 9 to 1, 8 to 1 and 49 to 1. They finished one two three as Antonio Sano’s Devilish Lady won by a head for owner Cairoli Racing over Bob Smith’s White Merlot who was racing for owner Drake Smith. Long shot, My Pal Chrisy garnered third place monies and was trailed by May Day Rose, Beso Grande and Just Louise.
The Grade II Carry Back for three year olds, also at a distance of six furlongs, gave Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher the opportunity to run the second and third choices for shares of the $200,000 purse. They finished second and third as Marty Wolfson’s Calder-based Indiano drew off by three lengths for owner Stud El Aguila as the 3 to 5 favorite. Two Calder horses grabbed the last two shares of the Carry Back purse.
The fans had a hard time settling on a favorite in the six furlong Grade II Smile Sprint for a purse of $350,000. They finally made Kenny McPeek’s Noble’s Promise who won the Grade III Aristides in his last start the 3 to 2 choice over Baffert’s Irrefutable and Bisnath Parboo’s Giant Ryan and Rick Dutrow’s This Ones for Phil all at 5 to 2. Giant Ryan got up in the final strides for owner Shivananda Parbhoo to overtake pace setter Irrefutable with Noble’s Promise another ¾ of a length back and ¾ of a length in front of Calder based Royal Tricon. I consider Giant Ryan’s victory one for the Calder trainers as he had made 3 starts in Florida and three in New York this year, but he was stabled in Florida longer than in New York and his last race a month prior was at Calder.
The Summit of Speed finale was the $350,000 Grade I Princess Rooney at six furlongs for fillies and mares. The 7 to 5 favorite was Dale Romans’ Grade I winning Sassy Image followed at 7 to 2 by Steve Klesaris’ former $10,000 claimer, Derwin’s Star, and at 5 to 1 was Eric Guillot’s Grade I winning Champagne d’Oro. Calder based Musical Romance trained by Bill Kaplan for himself and co owner Pinnacle Racing was the only other horse without double digit odds, going off at 7 to 1. Musical Romance almost pulled off the Calder sweep, leading until deep stretch when favored Sassy Image who was flying late got up to win by a neck for Dale Romans’s brother, Jerry. A length further back was Marty Wolfson’s Indulgence and also his Stephanie Got Even who were separated by just a nose.
There was a time when Calder horsemen were happy winning 20 % to 35 % of the purse money on Summit of Speed day. They were happy to win what they did, but unhappy to see so much of their purse money leave town with the shippers. Now I don’t hear as many complaints as Calder horsemen came within a neck of sweeping the Summit’s four Graded races for a second consecutive year. Last year they won 83 % of the stake purses which fell to 62 % this year, but that’s still a two year average of 73% of the money staying at home. Not bad for a little track previously known only for their two year olds.