05/16/2013 11:34AM

Calder: Close It Out tries to use Champali to earn berth in Smile


MIAMI – While the leaders of the local sprint division at Calder – Trinniberg, Jackson Bend, and Bahamian Squall – have the luxury of biding their time as they point towards the Grade 2 Smile on July 8, several of their contemporaries must still earn their way into the big event. Among them is Close It Out, who tops a field of 10 Smile prospects entered in Saturday’s $55,000 Champali Stakes.

Close It Out has been idle since finishing fourth behind Fort Loudon in the Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship on Feb. 9. The late-running Close It Out also finished fourth in his only other start of the season, the six-furlong Sunshine Millions Sprint, in January.

Close It Out, a son of Closing Argument owned by his breeder Samuel Rogers Jr., finished third behind Gantry and Indiano in the 2012 Smile. He has won just once since that outing but his victory was a big one, a last-to-first neck decision over Bahamian Squall in the Jack Dudley Sprint Handicap in November.

Close It Out needs an honest pace to be at his best and there is plenty of speed signed on for the six-furlong Champali. Uno Caliente figures to show the way early after breaking from the rail. He will be stretching out off a series of shorter races both on turf and dirt. Uno Caliente will be stalked by top contenders Cajun Breeze and Wickersheim, who should turn for home battling for the lead.

Cajun Breeze returned from a two-month break to wire a field of second-level optional $25,000 claiming types here on April 21 for his first win of the season, earning a 90 Beyer Speed Figure. Wickersheim may be the one to beat in the Champali despite the fact he has yet to clear his entry-level allowance condition, having had the misfortune of running into a pair of Todd Pletcher-trained speedballs, Ender Knievel and Cross Traffic, in his last two starts after winning his maiden by 11 lengths on Feb. 17. Wickersham, a well-bred son of Unbridled’s Song who has improved dramatically since joining trainer Marty Wolfson’s barn this season, will shorten up to six furlongs for the first time in the Champali.

Wickersheim will be joined in the starting gate by stablemate Ooohs and Aaahs, who has started just once since August, finishing second as the even-money favorite against an average field of first-level optional $25,000 claimers here on May 3.

Black Diamond Cat returns to his favorite course for the first time since finishing a distant fifth behind Close It Out in the Jack Dudley. Black Diamond Cat has registered all six of his career wins at Calder, although none of those has come since 2011.

On Appeal, who rebounded to win a starter allowance dash earlier this month after finishing second behind Cajun Breeze in his previous start, Megalith, and No Lift Shift complete the field.