04/07/2012 1:51PM

Calder hoping for strong, early start to meet

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Bob Coglianese
Summer Front could make his next start in Saturday's $150,000 Calder Derby.

MIAMI – The earliest Calder meet in track history kicks off Monday with the first of 85 programs to run through Aug. 31. The 65-day Tropical session begins the following day and continues until Nov. 30.

The re-vamping of the south Florida circuit and the early opening should pay immediate dividends, with a number of northern-based outfits still stabled in the south Florida area for the next several weeks. The 2012 stakes schedule has been structured to take advantage of that situation, with a trio of rich stakes carded during the month of April, including the $150,000 Calder Derby on the opening Saturday card and the Grade 3 Miami Mile the following weekend.

“A strong April is going to build momentum, and that momentum is going to carry through the summer and into the fall,” said John Marshall, Calder’s vice president and general manager of racing. “We look forward to the continuation of high quality south Florida racing and an opportunity to draw a new focus to the Calder product.”

Among the prominent northern trainers planning to start horses in both the Calder Derby and Miami Mile is Christophe Clement, who said he will run either his undefeated stakes winner Summer Front or promising Malibu Way in the Calder Derby and Za Approval or Right One in the Miami Mile.

“I’ll keep horses down here until the second or third week of April, and it’s always nice to be able to run at the beginning of a meet like this over a fresh turf course,” Clement said.

As usual, the rich Summit of Speed will highlight the stakes program. This year’s Summit of Speed will offer six stakes worth $1.3 million, including the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap and the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap. Eclipse Award winner Musical Romance, runner-up in the 2011 Princess Rooney, is being pointed to the race again this summer by trainer Bill Kaplan.

The six-furlong Smile is the only designated Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In race to be run at Calder in 2012.

Other days of note on the Calder and Tropical stakes schedules include the Juvenile Showcase on Aug. 25, the Festival of the Sun on Oct. 13, and the Florida Million on Nov. 10.

Two-time defending champion Luis Saez will again top the jockey colony. Saez won the 2011 Calder meet with 142 victories and came right back to capture the Tropical title with 66 wins. The local colony also will include 2010-11 Tropical champ Jose Alvarez, 2011 Tropical runner-up Daniels Centeno, Musical Romance’s regular rider Juan Leyva, and recent arrival Chris Landeros, a two-time riding champ at Lone Star Park.

Calder and Tropical training champion Antonio Sano will be back to defend his titles this summer against local mainstays such as former champs Bill White, Steve Dwoskin, Eddie Plesa Jr., and Kirk Ziadie. One notable new edition will be Giuseppe Iadisernia who is based here this summer with a barn full of horses, four of whom are entered for opening day.

Monday’s 10-race opening-day card will be highlighted by a $29,000 optional claimer going a mile on the main track. A field of nine was drawn for the race, led by Andersonstate, runner-up in two similar races this winter at Gulfstream Park.