12/04/2002 1:00AM

Band Is Passing tries for encore


MIAMI - The 2002 Tropical at Calder meet kicks into high gear on Saturday with Grand Slam I, the first of two multiple stakes programs to be offered here during the final month of the session. Grand Slam II is scheduled for Dec. 28.

Grand Slam I consists of four stakes, each valued at $100,000. The 1 1/8-mile Tropical Turf Handicap and its filly counterpart, the My Charmer Handicap, highlight a program that also includes the Kenny Noe Jr. and Chaposa Springs handicaps, both of which will be run at seven furlongs. Of the four stakes, only the Kenny Noe doesn't have graded status.

Band Is Passing, who has dominated the local turf division for several years, tops a full field of 12, plus three also-eligibles, entered for the Tropical Turf. Band Is Passing will carry high weight of 121 pounds, conceding from five to nine pounds to a field that also includes Grade 2 winner Dawn of the Condor and Canadian invader Perfect Soul, who is fresh off his appearance in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Band Is Passing is the defending Tropical Turf champion. Bred, owned, and trained by Stanley Ersoff, Band Is Passing has won his last two starts but was unlucky at Wednesday's post position draw, where he was assigned post 12 for the Grade 3 race.

Babae, winner of the Grade 3 Violet and Athenia handicaps in her last two starts, suffered a similar fate in the post position draw for the My Charmer. She drew the extreme outside post in a field of 10 fillies and mares entered for the Grade 3 race.

Babae will carry high weight of 121 pounds, including Jorge Chavez, against a field that includes the Grade 1 placed Volga and her uncoupled stablemate Strawberry Blonde. Both fillies are trained by Christophe Clement.

Tour of the Cat tops a field of seven in the Kenny Noe. The hometown favorite, Tour of the Cat totes top weight of 121 pounds and faces a well-matched group led by New York invader No Parole and locals Built Up and High Ideal.

Away and Sugar N Spice will share top billing of 117 pounds in the Chaposa Springs. The Grade 3 race lured only eight fillies and mares and is arguably the weakest of the four stakes on the Grand Slam I card.