10/20/2011 12:40PM

Calder: Oxenberg Memorial carries special memories for Plesa


MIAMI – Nobody wants to win Saturday’s feature event at Calder Race Course more than trainer Eddie Plesa Jr.

Saturday’s headliner is the $55,000 Bea Oxenberg Memorial, scheduled for older fillies and mares going 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf. Oxenberg, who died in August 2010, and her late husband Bernie owned horses with Plesa for more than 30 years while campaigning such notable Calder-based performers as Hey Byrn, Best of the Rest, and B.B. Best.

Plesa has entered two horses for the Oxenberg, Successful Song and Hisse. He said both would run if the race moves to the main track while only Hisse will start if it goes as scheduled over a turf course that has been inundated by rain for more than a week.

“I can’t imagine a race being named after anyone else that would mean more to me to win than this one,” said Plesa. “Not only did I train for Bea and Bernie for over 30 years, but any success I’ve had in my career they were a big part of in a lot of ways because when I started to get rolling on my own, they were in my corner. They bought nice horses, bred nice horses, and claimed horses. They are the kind of owners you can’t find any more and are becoming less and less a part of this business. So certainly this race means a whole lot to me.”

Successful Song has had a good but frustrating season for Plesa. She has been stakes-placed four times, including a second in the Grade 3 Rampart in 2011, yet still remains winless in six starts on the year. Successful Song, a 4-year-old Live Oak Plantation homebred, is coming off a heartbreaking setback in the Stage Door Betty Handicap here four weeks ago when she was run down by My Pal Chrissy in the final yards after opening a seemingly comfortable advantage at midstretch.

“I was counting my eggs before they hatched in her last start because I thought she was home free,” said Plesa of the Stage Door Betty. “It’s been kind of frustrating with her this season because she goes out there and tries hard every time but is one of those horses who always seems to have excuses. But she couldn’t be doing any better at the moment and hopefully those excuses will turn into wins soon.”

Hisse, a Louisiana-bred, won a statebred stakes over the Fair Grounds turf course earlier this year for trainer Steve Asmussen but has yet to start since first joining Plesa’s barn this summer at Monmouth Park.

“I’ve been kind of unlucky with Hisse too because I’ve had her an extended period of time and haven’t been able to get a race to go for her,” said Plesa. “She can run on dirt too so I guess I’d prefer if this race moves to the main track because that would give me two to run that way.”

Turf or dirt, the versatile Callmethesqueeze could prove the one to beat in the Oxenberg. She wheels back on just one week’s rest after having finished a distant second as the favorite in last Saturday’s Frances A. Genter decided over a yielding turf course. That was the first setback in four grass starts for the stretch-running Callmethesqueeze, who is also a stakes winner on dirt and should benefit from all the speed signed on for Saturday’s main event.

Trip for A.J. is another member of the Oxenberg field who can handle both the main track and grass with equal aplomb, having won stakes over both surfaces this season. Trip for A.J. finished fourth, two lengths behind Successful Song, as the even-money favorite when the pair met last month in the Stage Door Betty.