12/01/2007 2:03PM

Calder Time


Back in the day when I would winter in Florida, when that was the only way to watch and wager on Gulfstream and Hialeah, I chose Dec. 1 as the somewhat arbitrary starting point for making my own speed figures from the Tropical-at-Calder meeting. That way I'd have a roughly a month of last-out figs on the locals when the prime season started just after Jan. 1.

So I had a flash of deja vu this Dec. 1 morning as I opened a card of racing from Calder for the first time in a long while. The racing is starting to pick up there with the arrival of the northern grass horses, who are major players in two Calder stakes that comprise two-thirds of today's graded-stakes action around the country.

(Note to NY bettors: NYRA keeps running a graphic on its simulcast signal listing 11 tracks as being bettable today and not mentioning either Calder or Hollywood, but both, and a total of 19 tracks, are in fact available.)

3:28 pm EST, Calder race 8, G3 $100k My Charmer H., 3+F, 1 1/8-T
J'Ray and Bayou's Lassie are the only previous G3 winners, but their seven opponents (after the scratches of Ms. Lydonia and Gadolinium) are all stakes-winners and 6 of the 9 entrants have run a Beyer of 96 or better on the grass, the winning target at this level. Bayou's Lassie and Beautiful Danielle should compromise each other's chances on the lead and ensure an honest pace, perhaps setting things up nicely for Fantastic Shirl, a half-sister to Shakespeare who had an impossible set-up in the Athenia last time out: 10 lengths behind a half in 51, she had no chance to make a late impact against the streaking Criminologist. J'Ray, who has run well at Calder before and is rounding back into top form, and La Dolce Vita, who has been running in stronger fields than this one, appear to be the other top contenders. Redaspen is good enough but comes off a five-month layoff and a barn change.

4:48 pm EST, Calder race 11, G3 $100k Tropical Turf H., 3+, 1 1/8m-T
Host is a standout in a field of 10 (scratch Fishy Advice, Touched by Madness, and all the a-e's.) He switches from Pletcher to Albertrani (as a number of Melnyk horses, including Pool Land, have recently), and while he's never the most dependable proposition in the world, he has been running against significantly better than these this year, facing Kip DeVille and Shakespeare in recent G1 outings. I'll also use Go Between in the all-stakes Calder pick four. The 4-year-old has shown signs of returning to the form that won him the Palm Beach and Virginia Derby last year and could be on the verge of blossoming further.

7:07 pm EST, Hollywood race 8, G2 $150k Bayakoa H., 3+F, 1 1/8m
G1 winners Romance is Diane, Sugar Shake and Tough Tiz's Sis meet three overmatched rivals who have yet to win beyond the N2x level, and the top three all figure to go off in the 2-1 range. Sugar Shake's last-out victory in the Turnback the Alarm is less impressive than it looks on paper because her principal rival that day, Altesse, was pulled up after an equipment mishap. Romance is Diane improved her lifetime-best Beyer from an 85 to a 99 last time out but she was loose on the lead against Cal-breds that day. So I'll go with Tough Tiz's Sis, who couldn't handle the slop in the BC DIstaff but was very good running down Hystericalady to win the Lady's Secret in her previous start.