08/26/2003 11:00PM

'Baby Day' big hit with horsemen


MIAMI - First there was the Festival of the Sun, then came the Summit of Speed, and last year it was the Sunshine Millions. Now it's "Baby Day," the latest in a string of innovative days at Calder Race Course. Baby Day features a 13-race live program made up entirely of 2-year-old races, including six stakes, topped by the middle legs of the Florida Stallion Stakes.

Baby Day was the idea of Calder's racing secretary Bob Umphrey, who admitted he was surprised at how well the concept was received by local horsemen. Nine of Saturday's 13 races have full fields, including the $125,000 Affirmed Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes, which drew 14 runners despite the imposing presence of the undefeated Sir Oscar. The 13 races attracted 196 entries, including also-eligibles.

"The response we got was beyond my wildest expectations," Umphrey said Tuesday. "This is certainly an overwhelming success, especially for the first time. I couldn't be more pleased at the way the card turned out."

Umphrey said that Calder, which is owned by Churchill Downs Inc., is probably the only track in the country capable of putting on a full program for 2-year-olds.

"I don't think this kind of a concept would be possible anywhere else," Umphrey said. "I'd estimate our barn area consists of about 60 percent 2-year-olds and absolutely nobody has this many 2-year-old winners on their grounds at this point of the season. Churchill Downs likes us to think of different attractions to help promote the place down here, and event days are what you really need at a big meet that runs 180 days in one season."

Umphrey was also quite pleased the Affirmed was included with the Hopeful at Saratoga and the Cradle Stakes at River Downs in a national pick-three wager. Calder's proceeds from the bet will be donated to the Thoroughbred Retirement Fund.

The Affirmed and Susan's Girl will both be decided at seven furlongs and feature local division leaders Sir Oscar and the filly French Village, who is unbeaten and untested in two starts. She tops a seven-horse field in the Susan's Girl.

But, the best race of the day may be the $50,000 Seacliff, which will be run at one mile. The likely favorite will be Charming Jim, who returns home after finishing third in Monmouth's Grade 3 Sapling. He will face a field that includes the much improved Twice as Bad and several promising youngsters including Second of June, Hopefortheroses, and Tap Dancer. Hopefortheroses, a half-brother to multiple Grade 1 winner Hal's Hope, and Tap Dancer have already won around two turns.

The turf course will also be open for juveniles for the first time this summer. As expected, all three grass races oversubscribed, but Umphrey said he will bring back all the races that overfilled later in the week.

* Jorge Chavez, who won the 1988 Tropical at Calder riding title, will be in from New York on Saturday to ride Family Favorite in the Susan's Girl and Kipper's Night in the Affirmed for trainer George Handy. Both horses finished second making their local debuts in the opening legs of the Stallion Series.

Chavez won two races in his last visit to Calder on July 12.