10/13/2012 6:48PM

Calder: Csaba dominates Tropical Park Derby

Coady Photography
Csaba, ridden by Luis Saez, cruises to a 14-length victory in the off-the-turf Tropical Park Derby.

MIAMI - Trainer Phil Gleaves cross-entered Csaba in Saturday’s $100,000 Tropical Park Derby in case the race got switched from turf to dirt due to rain. Gleaves ultimately got his wish and Csaba made the most of the opportunity, running the race of his life to register a resounding 14- length victory over arch-rival Empire Builder while turning in the most impressive performance on Calder’s rich Festival of the Sun program.

Gleaves had also entered Csaba against older horses in Saturday’s Grade 3 Spend a Buck Handicap, a race which lost one of its principal players after highweight Gourmet Dinner scratched early in the day. But Gleaves resisted the temptation to stay in that race, stuck to his guns, and opted to give Csaba perhaps his last chance to compete against 3-year-olds this season.

Reuniting with leading rider Luis Saez, Csaba stalked the early pace, easily took control on the far turn, and then steadily increased his advantage while kept to task to the wire. Empire Builder, who finished in front of Csaba here during the spring only to be disqualified in the Mambo Meister Stakes, proved no match for the winner while finishing three-quarters of a length in front of the tiring Musical Flair to be second.

The victory was the third in 10 starts this season for Csaba, who raced without the blinkers he wore when finishing a wide-running seventh three weeks earlier in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby.  He returned $4.40 after running 1 1/8 miles over a good track in 1:52.94.

“I thought he ran a big race in Pennsylvania and he bounced out of it well,” said Gleaves, who trains Csaba for co-owners Bruce Hollander and Cary Shapoff. “I knew he was sitting on a big race, but I didn’t expect that.”