07/16/2002 11:00PM

Calder mourns a death in the family


MIAMI - The excitement of Saturday's $1.4 million Summit of Speed program was tempered earlier that morning with the sobering news that Hal's Hope had died the previous day because of complications from intestinal surgery.

Hal's Hope was one of the most popular horses to stable locally over the past several seasons. Along with Sir Bear, he helped give Calder-based runners national acclaim. His two Grade 1 victories at Gulfstream Park included a shocking win over the D. Wayne Lukas-trained High Yield in the 2000 Florida Derby. He also defeated Mongoose, Sir Bear, and Red Bullet to upset the 2002 Gulfstream Park Handicap this past spring. That win which pushed his career earnings above the $1 million mark.

Hal's Hope's popularity with the fans and media alike was the result of not only his success on the racetrack but also in large part the fact that he was owned, trained, and bred by Harold Rose. A fixture on the south Florida circuit for more than 30 years, Rose celebrated his 91st birthday two weeks ago.

Rose has trained, owned, and bred numerous stakes winners over the years including Sir Leon, My G.P., and both Hal's Hope's dam, Mia's Hope, and his grandsire, Rexson's Hope. But it was Hal's Hope who brought him into the national spotlight, first with his victory in the Florida Derby and then when the pair traveled to Kentucky for the 2000 Derby.

Rexson's Hope took Rose to his first Kentucky Derby, where both horse and trainer spent a week in relatively anonymity before finishing a nonthreatening 10th behind Swale in 1984.

But when he returned 16 years later with Hal's Hope, Rose became the darling of the media and was one of the most sought-out interviews during Derby week. And while the long Derby road, which began nearly a month earlier at Keeneland's Blue Grass Stakes, took its toll on the then 89-year-old Rose, he obliged nearly every request for his time. Unfortunately, Hal's Hope got caught up in a blistering early pace and finished a tiring and well-beaten 16th behind the favored Fusaichi Pegasus.

Rose's devotion and affection to his horse was matched by his loyalty to his friend, jockey Roger Velez, Hal's Hope's regular rider throughout his career. Rose was besieged with phone calls from agents representing some of the nation's premier riders on both coasts following Hal's Hope's Florida Derby victory. Rose never wavered, standing by Velez, who became as much a part of the Hal's Hope team and as responsible for his success, as Rose himself.

"There's not much to say after what has happened," Rose lamented Tuesday, still trying to get over the shock of Hal's Hope's untimely death. "He had colic, they operated on him three times, and he died after the last surgery. He's the best horse I've ever had by far, and I also had high hopes for him as a stallion prospect. We had a number of people looking to set him up at stud next year."

Rose said he is keeping Hal's Hope's stall empty for the time being.

"I've got a half brother by Fortunate Prospect who'll turn two next year, a weanling out of his dam by Halo's Image, and she's also in foal again to Halo's Image right now," said Rose. "But I don't think I'll ever get another Hal's Hope. He was one in a million."

Royal Lad likely for Saratoga

Royal Lad kept the locals from being swept in the four main events on Saturday's Summit of Speed program when he outlasted California invader Captain Squire to win the $250,000 Carry Back Stakes.

"It was very exciting, just great," trainer Ralph Ziadie said on Tuesday. "When you point for a race like that for so long and pull it off, you really feel like you've accomplished something. And it was nice to keep some of the money at home on Saturday."

Ziadie said he is looking at a pair of 3-year-old sprint stakes, the $150,000 Amsterdam on Aug. 3 and the $200,000 King's Bishop on Aug. 24, as possible options for Royal Lad.

Ziadie said that the Amsterdam, at six furlongs, is "more likely for him" than the King's Bishop, which is at seven furlongs.

Summit generates record handle

Saturday's 13-race Summit of Speed card drew 9,974 fans with the total handle of $8,883,212 establishing a new Calder record, eclipsing the old mark set last October on the Festival of the Sun card. The Summit of Speed's ontrack handle of $1,140,780 also was a Calder record.

"We're extremely pleased with today's results and the quality of horses who competed in these races speaks volumes about the Summit of Speed concept," said Ken Dunn, president of Calder. "Unfortunately, the rainy weather we've had here the past few weeks kept us from using the turf course, where we would have had at least two races scheduled with full 12-horse fields on Saturday.

"If we had been able to get those races on the card, I think we might have eclipsed the $10 million mark in total handle."