04/15/2002 11:00PM

Baby stakes starts the weekend

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The youngest stakes winner in the country will be crowned here Friday when 2-year-olds go three furlongs in the $75,000 Valid Appeal Stakes.

Four of the 14 nominees for the Valid Appeal have already earned their diplomas, including the filly Shelby's Angel, who beat 11 rivals handily on April 4.

Sports Banquet owns the fastest three-furlong clocking of the meet, covering the distance in 32.99 seconds en route to a game neck decision in his only previous start. His most immediate victim that day, Lucky Magus, is also nominated for the Valid Appeal.

Both Supah Blitz and Sweet Promises also won at first asking and are bred to be stakes-caliber. Supah Blitz is a son of Mecke out of Boots 'n Jackie, who finished third in the 1992 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Both Mecke and Boots 'n Jackie were trained by Manny Tortora, as is Supah Blitz, whom he trains for his wife, Jacqueline Tortora.

Sweet Promises was sent off at 1-2 for his debut and ran to his backing, winning the meet's first juvenile race by a comfortable 2 1/2 lengths for trainer Larry Pilotti and his owner-breeder, the Monarch Stable. Sweet Promises is a son of End Sweep and All My Promises, which makes him a half-brother to the very fast FJ's Pace.

The Valid Appeal is the first of three stakes races on tap this weekend, along with the $75,000 Hallandale Beach Handicap on Saturday and the $75,000 Christmas Past Stakes on Sunday. They are the last three stakes of the meet, which ends on Wednesday, April 24.

Cellars Shiraz to go in Edgewood

Trainer Bill Cesare will have his versatile 3-year-old filly Cellars Shiraz at Churchill Downs on Oaks Day, May 3. But instead of running in the Grade 1 Oaks, Cellars Shiraz will stick to what she does best and compete in the $100,000 Edgewood Stakes at one mile on the turf.

Cellars Shiraz has registered three straight stakes wins, two on turf and the third over the main track. Her most recent victory was a two-length triumph in the Via Borghese Stakes on turf here April 7.

Cesare found not guilty

Cesare scored an even more important personal victory last Friday when a jury in Dade County Court found him not guilty of all charges stemming from an alleged firearms possession at Calder Race Course last December.

Cesare served a 60-day suspension handed down by the Calder stewards for allegedly threatening a groom with a firearm on the Calder grounds. A former member of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cesare accepted the suspension despite vehemently denying the allegations.

Castelli Miss heads sprint

A well-matched field of 10 3-year-old fillies will go six furlongs in Thursday's $34,000 allowance feature. Castelli Miss, who finished third behind School for Scandal under similar conditions last month, will likely be favored to defeat a group that includes Groove, Barbara O'Brien, Barely Perfect, and the undefeated Recondite.

Castelli Miss had finished second behind runaway winner Bold World when she made her 3-year-old debut in the Dame Mysterieuse Stakes and had her last effort flattered when School for Scandal returned to win an allowance race in New York.

Major league prep

Both Harlan's Holiday, winner of the Blue Grass, and Buddha, who won the Wood, raced exclusively at Gulfstream this winter. Harlan's Holiday won the $1 million Florida Derby and finished second to Booklet, runner-up in the Blue Grass, in the Holy Bull and Grade 1 Fountain of Youth Stakes. Buddha opened his 3-year-old campaign here with a maiden and entry level allowance victory.

In the first 50 years that the Florida Derby was run (this year's running was the 51st), 3-year-olds who competed in the Florida Derby won 49 Triple Crown races. The race has produced 19 Kentucky Derby winners, including Monarchos in 2001.

Calder to start with nine races daily

Bob Umphrey, racing secretary at Calder, will card only nine races on weekdays for the first month of the Calder meet, which begins on April 26. The Calder meet opens four weeks earlier than usual as a result of the deregulation of racing days in south Florida this year.

"We'll run nine races a day on weekdays, 12 on Saturdays, and 10 on Sundays for the extra four weeks at the beginning of our schedule, then revert to our regular 10-race weekday cards for the remainder of the summer," said Umphrey.

Calder will race five days a week with Wednesday's and Thursday's dark.