07/13/2012 3:33PM

Calder: Csaba vs. Empire Builder rivalry may continue in El Kaiser

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Laura Villasana/Coady Photography
Empire Builder (right) beats Csaba in the Mambo Meister Stakes in May. The two will face each other for the third time in the El Kaiser.

MIAMI – Only nine 3-year-olds were nominated to next Saturday’s $75,000 El Kaiser Stakes at Calder. But they represent the cream of the local division and if the majority of them show, it promises to be one whale of a race.

Topping the nomination list are two sons of Kitten’s Joy, Empire Builder and Csaba. The El Kaiser would be the rubber match between the pair. Csaba prevailed under allowance conditions on May 12, then Empire Builder scored a narrow victory two weeks later in the Mambo Meister Stakes.

Owner-trainer Luis Duco said Friday he has not committed Empire Builder to the mile and 70-yard El Kaiser but in all likelihood that’s where his star will run next.

“I’ll probably make a final decision over the weekend,” said Duco. “I nominated him for the Virginia Derby and I need to see the nomination list and get an idea who might be running there, but from what I’ve heard that race is going to come up with a big and very strong field. In fact I’m not even sure we’d qualify if the race overfills.”

Empire Builder followed his half-length decision over Csaba in the Mambo Meister with an even easier 4 3/4-length triumph in the American Dreamer five weeks later. His first two victories, however, came over the local turf course at 2.

“He’s beginning to really mature now, and as he has, he’s just gotten better every day,” said Duco. “I also think he’s twice the horse on turf than he is on dirt, but he’s ready to run now. This race is coming up, so we’ll likely run him here once more over the main track and then maybe look around later this summer for something convenient for him out of town.”

Csaba passed the American Dreamer following his unlucky trip in the Mambo Meister, a race in which he was disqualified from second and placed third for impeding another rival leaving the backstretch.

“The plan is to run him next Saturday and then head to Saratoga for something later this summer,” said Phil Gleaves who trains Csaba for owners Bruce Hollander and Cary Shapoff. “There are only nine horses nominated for the El Kaiser so I’m just hoping right now that it fills. I thought he ran a good race last time. He had a tough trip and just couldn’t run that other horse down once getting clear.”

Unlike Duco, Gleaves has yet to make up his mind whether his horse is better on turf or dirt.

“He ran a huge number two races back on the main track, so at the moment I’d say he’s a very good Calder dirt horse,” said Gleaves. “But then you look at his breeding and think he may be even better on turf and that’s where he could very well end up before the summer is over.”

The El Kaiser, which will share top billing next Saturday with its filly counterpart, the $75,000 Three Ring, also lured nominations from the red-hot Azafran, the promising and versatile Bellefire, the improving Mr. Espresso, and Ravelo’s Boy.

Ravelo’s Boy, who came off a three-month layoff to finish ninth in the Belmont Stakes, returned locally for the first time as a 3-year-old to finish second behind Empire Builder in the American Dreamer.

Alter has high hopes for Wicked Night

Former trainer turned owner Happy Alter said he is expecting big things the rest of the year from Wicked Night, who will make her next start in the Three Ring. Alter claimed Wicked Night for $75,000 out of her 2-year-old finale at Gulfstream Park and has watched her win twice in four starts at 3. Wicked Night made her stakes bow earlier this month and was beaten less than a length when finishing a late-running fourth in the Strikethedancer Stakes.

“She’s by Tiznow out of a Rahy mare and I believe she’s going to be a graded stakes winner on grass somewhere down the road,” Alter said of Wicked Night, who is trained by Ron Spatz.