07/12/2011 1:13PM

Calder: Musical Romance valiant in defeat

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Jim Lisa
Musical Romance finished second in last Saturday's Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder.

MIAMI – Fifty yards from home in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap, it appeared Musical Romance was not only about to complete a sweep by locally based horses of the four graded stakes on last Saturday’s Summit of Speed program but also complete a Cinderella seven-week run for trainer Bill Kaplan and the connections of the 4-year-old filly.

Unfortunately, Musical Romance could not quite hold off the spectacular stretch charge of the 8-5 favorite Sassy Image, who rallied from another zip code to a neck decision in the six-furlong Princess Rooney. But the fact Musical Romance had to settle for second money didn’t damper the enthusiasm of Kaplan, who couldn’t have been more pleased with the performance his horse turned in Saturday or the job jockey Juan Leyva did to nearly pull off the upset in the only Grade 1 event on the Calder stakes schedule.

“Obviously, winning a Grade 1 race would have made a big difference in the filly’s value and for me financially, but I’m not disappointed in what happened out there on Saturday,” said Kaplan, who owns Musical Romance in partnership with the Pinnacle Racing Stable. “I think our horse ran a great race, and Juan rode a perfect race. He certainly did all he could. To be honest, I thought we had the race won about a hundred yards out. I didn’t see the winner until about five jumps from the wire. I’ve got to give Sassy Image a lot of credit to come from so far behind and so wide to win like that over this racetrack. If she had a normal break or was laying closer early, she’d have probably won by 10 lengths.”

The Princess Rooney was the third in a series of big sprint efforts by Musical Romance, who had been better known as a two-turn, turf specialist prior to Kaplan’s decision to try her in the six-furlong Ema Bovary on May 22. Musical Romance responded with a game nose decision over Bella Moneta that day and then returned with a rail-skimming victory over Indulgence three weeks later in the U Can Do It Handicap.

“She always had speed when she was younger, but I didn’t think she quite had enough to be a stakes-caliber filly, so I leaned toward sending her long and on grass,” Kaplan said. “She was always a problem rating going long, with open air she just wanted to take off. But over the last year, she learned to settle and when going back to sprinting the pace was always fast enough in front of her that it didn’t take much to rate her. She’s really turned it up a notch lately, and I love her courage. Juan has taken her through some tough spots in these last three races, but when he says go, she goes.”

Kaplan said he’s considering Delaware Park’s Grade 3, $150,000 Endine Stakes at six furlongs on Aug. 20 for Musical Romance’s next start.

Sassy Image ends streak for locals

Sassy Image’s victory over Musical Romance in the Princess Rooney snapped a seven-race winning streak for locally based horses on Summit of Speed Day dating back to 2010, when Calder horses swept all four graded stakes on the card. The home team of Devilish Lady (Azalea), Indiano (Carry Back), and Giant Ryan (Smile Sprint) also won the first three graded races Saturday.

While Sassy Image’s triumph was the most visually impressive of the four stakes wins on the card, Indiano’s was far and away the best statistically with the 3-year-old earning a 108 Beyer Speed Figure for his popular triumph in the Carry Back. Sassy Image received a 93 for winning the Princess Rooney, Giant Ryan a 98 for his performance in the Smile, and Devilish Lady a 92 for capturing the Azalea.

Giant Ryan not nominated to Breeders' Cup

Although the Smile was a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, the connections of Giant Ryan are still going to have to pony up some cash if they wish to run in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. According to Jim Gluckson of the Breeders’ Cup, Giant Ryan was not nominated as a foal, so to get the Breeders’ Cup Challenge winner’s benefits, the owners will have to nominate him to the program at a cost of $100,000 by Oct. 23. Once doing that, Breeders’ Cup will pay for the $45,000 in entry fees and provide the stable with a $10,000 shipping allowance, so overall it will cost Giant Ryan’s connections $45,000 to start in the Sprint.

Giant Ryan is trained by Bisnath Parboo and owned by his son Shivananda.

Callmethesqueeze impresses in win

Another potential star to emerge on Summit of Speed Day was Callmethesqueeze, a 3-year-old Awesome Again filly who rallied to capture the Sweettrickydancer Stakes by a nose over a game Prize Informant. Callmethesqueeze had given every indication of being an up-and-coming turf star with two consecutive and very impressive grass wins since being switched to turf by trainer Manny Azpurua earlier this spring. But Callmethesqueeze also showed some versatility by winning the Sweettrickydancer after the race was switched from the grass to a “good” main track.

Owner Raffa dies at age 78

The Calder community lost a good friend when longtime owner Joseph Raffa died at his home in Fort Lauderdale at the age of 78 on Sunday. Raffa campaigned horses for two decades at Calder with his longtime trainer and friend Richard Root. The best horse he owned was the speedy stakes winner Storm Flag, who finished second in the 2003 Azalea.

“Joe was a loyal Calder owner,” Root said. “No matter how good or bad things got around here, Joe never wanted to ship his horses out of town to run. He always stayed here all these years.”