10/11/2012 4:39PM

Calder: Gourmet Dinner back where it all started in Spend a Buck


MIAMI – Gourmet Dinner last ran in the Grade 1 Woodward, and Csaba is exiting the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby. They will compete for considerably less money when they return to their Calder roots for Saturday’s $100,000 Spend a Buck Handicap. The Grade 3 Spend a Buck will be decided at 1 1/16 miles.

The Spend a Buck is the only graded stakes on a card that includes the My Dear Girl and In Reality divisions of the Florida Stallion Stakes, the $75,000 Frances A. Genter Stakes, and the $75,000 Tropical Park Derby

Gourmet Dinner began his career at Calder by winning three of his first four starts at 2 for trainer Steve Standridge, including the first two legs of the 2010 Florida Stallion Stakes. Gourmet Dinner’s quest to sweep the series fell 1 1/2 lengths short when he was upset by Reprized Halo in the 1 1/16-mile In Reality.

Gourmet Dinner was briefly on the Kentucky Derby trail the following winter before being sidelined for nearly a year following his second-place finish in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. A homebred son of Trippi, Gourmet Dinner finally returned to the races earlier this year under the tutelage of Bruce Brown, for whom he has posted one win in eight starts, his lone tally coming in Monmouth Park’s Majestic Light.

Gourmet Dinner, who carries high weight of 122 pounds, was trained up to the Spend a Buck by Brown before shipping to Calder and being transferred to trainer David Braddy’s barn earlier this month. He finished seventh and last in the Woodward under Alan Garcia and will have Sebastian Madrid aboard Saturday.

“We decided to take a shot at a Grade 1 in the Woodward, but he got off badly,” Brown said. “He’s a very tricky horse to ride; he fools a lot of riders. If you don’t ride and keep after him, he’ll stop on you. A few jockeys fit him well, and Sebastian is one of them.”

Madrid recently returned to Calder himself. Madrid was aboard Gourmet Dinner for his three local wins at 2 as well as his 2 1/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot later that fall.

Brown, whose wife is due to deliver twins later this month, will bring Gourmet Dinner back under his shed when he ships his string to Gulfstream Park early this winter.

Csaba, one of two 3-year-olds in the Spend a Buck, was trapped wide throughout while finishing seventh and last in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby. A son of Kitten’s Joy, Csaba was second, beaten a nose, as the 6-5 favorite earlier this summer in Saratoga’s Grade 2 Hall of Fame.

Cash Rules is among the leaders of the local handicap division, having posted three stakes victories in five starts since Calder opened last spring.

“He’s working well, loves this track, and has beaten most of the horses in this field already,” said David Fawkes, who trains Cash Rules for Larry Fugate. “He lost a lot of time early in his career due to a slab fracture in his knee . . . but we always thought he could run. It looks like we’ll have Gourmet Dinner to beat on Saturday.”

Recent stakes winner Ducduc, Decisive Moment, Too Is to Many, Flatter This, and Fair Whit complete the lineup.

Tropical Park Derby: Empire Builder eyes revenge

Empire Builder, who has won stakes on turf and dirt here this season, will try to avenge his most recent setback at the hands of Mucho Mas Macho in the Tropical Park Derby, for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles on the grass.

Empire Builder forced the pace, assumed command in early stretch, but was run down in the closing strides by Mucho Mas Macho to finish second in the grassy Needles Stakes on Sept. 15. Empire Builder won the Naked Greed, also on the turf, four weeks earlier.

Mucho Mas Macho rallied from last in the Needles to post his second straight grass win for the team of trainer Henry Collazo and jockey Juan Leyva. Musical Flair finished third, two lengths farther back, after having to check sharply near midstretch of the Needles.

Csaba has been cross-entered by trainer Phil Gleaves in the Tropical Park Derby, but will start only if the race comes off the grass.

Frances Genter: Awesome Belle on a roll

Awesome Belle will shoot for her fourth straight victory, all stakes, when she goes postward the odds-on choice in the $75,000 Frances Genter for 3-year-old fillies, slated to be run at one mile on the turf.

Awesome Belle led throughout, cruising to an easy win in the Judy’s Red Shoes on Sept. 15 over a good but in spots very yielding turf course. She also accounted for the Crystal Rail and Three Ring earlier this summer.

Wicked Night, who took a bad step over the soggy course, stumbled, and was pulled up after stalking the pace in the Judy’s Red Shoes, may be the one to fear over firmer ground.