07/06/2012 4:39PM

Calder: Bellefire can win if he runs straight


MIAMI – Bellefire did everything wrong a horse could possibly do in a race and still win when capturing his entry-level allowance condition last month. Trainer Leo Azpurua Jr. is hoping the talented but still immature 3-year-old will be a bit better behaved when stepping up to the next level and returning to grass for Sunday’s $29,000 allowance feature at Calder.

Bellefire broke slowly, was climbing down the backstretch, raced wide into the stretch, switched leads late, and lugged in badly but was still good enough to run down pace setter Gal Has to Like It to register a visually impressive 1 3/4-length victory going seven furlongs on June 17. The win was the second in five starts for Bellefire, a son of Proud Citizen who also captured his maiden at seven furlongs when launching his career last winter at Tampa Bay Downs.

“I’ve had high hopes for him all along, but he’s the type of horse who hasn’t quite matured mentally. He’s not 100 percent all there yet,” said Azpurua. “In my opinion, his last race was very good for him. He took dirt, and his rider” – Manny Cruz – “said he started to lose focus briefly on the turn. He had to hit him a couple of times to get his attention and then he began running inward like he was trying to run at that horse on the lead. If he ever runs straight, he’d be a different horse.”

Sunday’s feature will be the third time Bellefire has raced on turf, and with his high action it appears the homebred might be better on grass than dirt.

“This race came up with five horses on the dirt and seven on grass and it puts you in a situation, as a trainer, that if the horse is doing well and can handle the grass, you have to be flexible and go in the race that fills,” said Azpurua. “He might actually be better on dirt and if it rains Sunday, I know I’m still there. I don’t know about everyone else.”

Argentine Tango, who was also entered in Saturday’s Grade 3 Carry Back on the main track, may be the horse to beat. The stretch-running son of Black Mambo, stakes placed on dirt at 2, finished fourth in the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes over the turf this winter at Gulfstream and was the victim of a controversial stewards decision when disqualified from an apparent first-level allowance win on turf in his juvenile finale.

Burning Time returns to the grass for the first time since finishing eighth in Gulfstream’s Dania Beach to close out his 2-year-old campaign. Burning Time rallied from last to finish second five weeks earlier in Calder’s Appleton Juvenile Turf.

Star of Sarava, multiple stakes placed on grass at 2, makes his 3-year-old bow on Sunday following an eight-month layoff for trainer Bill White. Star of Sarava has trained forwardly for his return, completing a series of nice works and finishing extremely well going a half-mile from the gate on Monday.

◗ Azpurua reported that his top sprinter, Manicero, remains on the farm in Ocala recuperating from foot problems. Manicero, a five-time stakes winner as a 3-year-old in 2011, has not started since finishing second behind Zero Rate Policy in Gulfstream Park’s Sunshine State Stakes on Dec. 11.

“We sent him to the farm in April,” Azpurua said. “He seems to be progressing well, but at the moment there is no time table set for bringing him back.”