Updated on 09/17/2011 10:26AM

Calhoun trio possible for Lone Star Derby


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Trainer Bret Calhoun, who has been winning races at a rate of more than 35 percent during the first month of the Lone Star Park meet, has three horses under consideration for Saturday's Grade 3, $500,000 Lone Star Derby.

Calhoun's possibles for the 1 1/8-mile race that could draw the maximum 14 starters are Lone Star Deputy, Commander's Affair, and Iceanwater. All three last raced April 5 in the $100,000 Grand Prairie Turf Challenge, which was won by Lone Star Deputy.

Commander's Affair finished third by a half-length after setting the pace, and Iceanwater finished fifth, beaten 1 1/4 lengths.

Expected Lone Star Derby favorite Dynever is scheduled to fly to Texas Wednesday, although there was a slight chance he could opt for the Preakness. A plane carrying horses from California is expected Thursday.

Others probable for the Lone Star Derby include Crowned Dancer, Crowned King, Defrere's Vixen, Desert Spirit, Gentlemen J J, Leo's Last Hurrahy, Mauk Four, Most Feared, Mr. Technique, My Champion, and possibly Spensive.

Calhoun currently ranks ninth in the national trainer standings by wins. This spring, he was the third-leading trainer at both Fair Grounds and Sam Houston, and his finishes at those meets suggested he was primed for a good run Lone Star.

For his part, Calhoun has delivered. He has won 19 races from 53 starters so far to rank third in the standings. By comparison Calhoun finished fourth at Lone Star last year after winning 23 races during the 3 1/2-month meet.

"I'd say we're on pace to have the best meet I've ever had," Calhoun said. "Let's see how it ends up."

A native of Grand Prairie who will turn 39 Sunday, Calhoun has an 80-horse stable that is divided between Lone Star and Louisiana Downs. He also has a string of horses at Arlington Park.

"There's no substitute for horsepower, and the stock we have now is just so much better," Calhoun said.

Calhoun's best horses include Lone Star Deputy, a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Salty You whose meet goal is the $200,000 USA on turf May 26; Lake Lady, who is recovering from a quarter crack; Naturally Wild, a stakes-placed mare pointing for the Grade 3, $200,000 WinStar Distaff May 26; You Glitter Girl, on deck for the $125,000 Stonerside May 24; Cauy, a candidate for the $100,000 Valid Expectations May 26; and promising 2-year-olds like Western Cat, an Unbridled's Song colt who is a half-brother to stakes winner Screen Pass.

Commander's Affair has also been a bright spot in the Calhoun barn. He has developed rapidly since being gelded following his second career start last October.

"It made a world of difference for him," Calhoun said.

In his comeback, Commander's Affair finished a close third behind Seattle Hoofer in a two-turn maiden race at Fair Grounds Dec. 22. One start later, Commander's Affair won his maiden. He then won his next start, an entry-level allowance race Feb. 13.

Commander's Affair next tried the Grade 2, $750,000 Louisiana Derby. But he never got into the race early, which is his preferred style, and finished ninth behind winner Peace Rules.

"We thought he came into the Louisiana Derby fantastic, very sharp," Calhoun said. "[But] he didn't break very well, those horses out-footed him, and he just checked it in."

Commander's Affair made his turf debut one start later in the Grand Prairie Turf Challenge, and while Calhoun feels the gelding handles both surfaces equally well, he really likes the distance of the Lone Star Derby for his colt.

"I think the mile and an eighth is the most positive thing about the race," Calhoun said. "The distance is going to be to our advantage."

Perplexing Wednesday feature

A confusing mix of horses at different points in their careers meet Wednesday night in the featured eighth race. The $50,000 optional claiming race at one mile drew horses out to recapture their best form, others on the rise, and still others getting back to their best distance.

All this from a field of six that includes Group 1 winner Oh Take and Grade 2 winner Fifty Stars.

* Lone Star handled more than $6.2 million on live and simulcast racing Saturday, boosted by a record $1 million in on-track bets on the Kentucky Derby. On the 11-race card, handle from all sources was $4 million.