09/08/2009 11:00PM

Apprentice Saez attracting fans, rave reviews


MIAMI - Apprentice Luis Saez won't win the 2009 Calder riding title. In fact, he's not even in the top 10 in the standings. But nobody, not even leading jockey Manoel Cruz, is a hotter commodity among the local colony than Saez.

Saez, a graduate of the Panama Jockey School, capped an outstanding weekend by deftly in Monday's main event. The previous afternoon, Saez posted a four-bagger, his biggest day since arriving in the United States earlier this year.

Saez, who barely speaks a word of English, is represented locally by jack of all trades Peter Wright, who is mulling several possible options for his promising rider's future.

"Down the road, I'm thinking about taking him to New York," Wright said shortly after Ikigai left the winner's circle Monday. "Possibly even California. But for now, the most important thing is for Luis to learn to speak English to help him communicate better with the trainers he's riding for."

Wright said Saez, who will ride with a five-pound apprentice allowance until June 2010, recently started taking English classes locally that will continue into the fall.

"He doesn't need to learn to ride," said Wright who has a two-year contract to serve as Saez's agent. "The guys who prepared him before he got here did a great job. He needs to be able to talk to people. We can't go anywhere until he learns to speak English."

Saez's performance aboard Ikigai on Monday quickly made trainer Marty Wolfson a fan. Saez eased the speedy Ikigai back off the early leaders in the run down the backstretch and angled out three wide to challenge for command turning for home. The pair cruised to a relatively easy allowance victory over You Luckie Mann.

"He's a good rider," Wolfson said. "He's got a lot of horse sense. I expected Ikigai to be on the lead today, and you'd have thought a young rider might have gotten concerned when he wasn't in front. But he didn't panic and used great judgment to take back and come around those other horses like he did."

Wolfson, who saddled the top two finishers in the Labor Day feature, also was surprised that You Luckie Mann, a troubled second in the in his previous start, was the favorite in the race over the older Ikigai.

"I was really pleased with You Luckie Mann's performance, but he can never beat Ikigai going five furlongs," Wolfson said. "Ikigai's never been beaten at that distance. I just needed to get a race under You Luckie Mann's belt before the Gallant Bob at Philadelphia Park, which is our main goal for him right now."

Wolfson also reported that It's a Bird came out of his fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Woodward in good order and that he plans to keep the multiple graded stakes winner home for a while.

"He ran well, moved into contention in early stretch, but those horses are just too tough for him," Wolfson said. "I'll freshen him up now and point him for the Florida-bred stakes here in November."

Wolfson was referring to the $200,000 Carl G. Rose Classic on Nov. 14.

Three trainers appeal suspensions

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the body that oversees the state Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, has handed down rulings against three trainers stabled at Calder - Greg Griffith, Rodolfo Garcia and Alan Benson - each of whom was fined $300 and suspended 60 days for having horses test positive for the Class 3 drug glycopyrrolate, a bronchodilator, during a period extending as far back as September 2008.

All three trainers have appealed their rulings.

Kent Stirling, director of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said the suspensions were excessive punishment.

"This is like the death penalty for something that has always been a $300 fine," said Stirling, who added that he was helping all three men with their appeals. "The division has a new test that's more sensitive than it used to be and they're playing the gotcha game."

Stirling said the division has stiffened the penalty for glycopyrrolate because it believes it can prove from the new testing that the drug was administered on race day, which is a violation of Florida rules. The sample concentration in the three tests ranged from 1.2 nanograms per milliliter for Benson to 2.4 nanograms per milliliter for Garcia, he said.

"We are a zero-tolerance state, but what makes these rulings so disconcerting is the way it was dropped on these trainers like this," Stirling said.

* Even Road, who has not finished worse than second in her seven starts in 2009, tops a field of six fillies and mares in Friday's $27,000 optional claiming feature, carded at a mile. The lineup also includes One Proud Lady, whose only defeat in four career tries came in the LuLu's Ransom Stakes; the improving Diced N Sliced; stakes winner Ashley River; the graded-stakes-placed Hopeful Image; and Glotona.

* Longtime owner Pedro Maestre saddled the first winner of his new training career when he sent out Cuban Carmen to win the fourth race here Sunday. Maestra will waste little time sending Cuban Carmen back into action as part of an entry along with Aroma de Mujer in Saturday's co-featured 12th race.