08/08/2001 11:00PM

Blissful Kiss tops series opener


MIAMI - Saturday's opening leg of the Florida Stallion Series consists of the Dr. Fager and Desert Vixen Stakes, each for 2-year-olds at six furlongs and for a $75,000 purse at Calder. But the similarities end there.

The Desert Vixen, the filly division, is dominated by stakes winner Blissful Kiss and the undefeated Pharmstar and drew a field of only seven. The Dr. Fager for colts and geldings division is so wide open that 18 horses were entered, forcing racing secretary Bob Umphrey to split the Dr. Fager for the first time since 1991.

Unlike in previous years, when a split of the race meant a split of the purse, both halves of the Dr. Fager will be worth $75,000, with the extra funding for the second division coming from the horsemen's general purse account.

Blissful Kiss will be heavily favored to win the Desert Vixen, as she comes off an easy victory over open company in the J J'sdream Stakes. A homebred daughter of Kissin Kris, she is owned by John Franks and trained by Bill White. She entered the J J'sdream a maiden, having finished a troubled third in her career debut, but dominated the competition in the J J'sdream, surviving an early pace battle before drawing off to a 6 3/4-length decision.

Blissful Kiss has continued to trained extremely well in preparation for the Desert Vixen and will again be ridden by Andrew Ramgeet.

Pharmstar is the younger sister of Valid Forbes, who upset the 2000 Desert Vixen and also won the My Dear Girl Stakes going 1 1/16 miles later that fall. Pharmstar, by freshman sire Adhocracy, won her only previous start impressively, posting a 5 1/2-length decision over maiden rivals July 14.

Unfortunately for trainer Ralph Ziadie, Pharmstar had tender shins earlier this week and may not be going into the Desert Vixen at 100 percent.

"Her shins are bugging her but I should be able to hold her together for this race," said Ziadie, who also trained Valid Forbes for Centaur Farms Inc.

The opening leg of the Dr. Fager may be the tougher of the two divisions, with Barnacle Steve the one to beat. A son of Open Forum, he has sandwiched two victories around a second-place finish in the Hialeah Juvenile. Barnacle Steve is trained by Manny Tortora for James Lewis Jr., the same combination who swept the 1994 open division with Mecke and Sea Emperor.

Barnacle Steve may receive his stiffest opposition from a trio of undefeated colts, Carey's Gold, All Line, and Out of Nickles.

Concorde's Appeal, a maiden, may have gotten enough out of his third-place finish behind All Line in his only previous start to defeat eight rivals in the second division of the Dr. Fager.

Concorde's Appeal is a full brother to Silk Concorde, winner of the 2000 Susan's Girl Stakes. Other key contenders in the race appear to be Rulebook, Noble Invitation, O'Rocky, and Salt Water Cowboy.

Rulebook, who was purchased privately by owner Donald Hutson following his maiden win, is trained by Marty Wolfson and will be ridden by Julio Garcia who teamed up to sweep the open division last year with Express Tour.

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