07/09/2002 12:00AM

Calldara doesn't run like maiden in stakes


AUBURN, Wash. - One maiden posted a stunning upset and two others were excluded. Those were the two hottest topics of conversation following last Sunday's six-furlong Angie C. Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Emerald Downs.

The winner was Calldara, who had run third and second against $25,000 and then $32,000 maiden claiming company, and was in a field of 10 that included the winners of those races. Calldara, a daughter of Sultry Song who races for Dr. Rodney Orr of Silverton, Ore., was therefore sent off as the second-longest shot on the board at odds of 16-1, but she ran as though she were odds-on.

Under a flawless ride from Nate Chaves, Calldara moved strongly along the rail to reach contention turning for home, swung three wide to go by the pacesetting duo of Our Game and Marva Jean in the upper stretch, then drew out to score by 3 1/2 lengths in 1:10.60 on a track turned wet-fast by a sudden downpour half an hour earlier.

"I've always thought she was a nice filly, but she was probably a little short in her first two races," said Calldara's trainer, Steve Bullock. "It was really Dr. Orr's idea to run her in the stakes, but I thought maybe she would have a shot if things went her way. Nate rode a smart race and the filly really responded well down the lane, so I've got hopes that she will go on and be a tough horse as the distances get longer."

Trainer uses rules to his best advantage

Calldara's task was presumably made easier by the exclusion of two highly regarded non-starters, and for that trainer Dave Bennett gets the credit. Or the blame, depending upon one's point of view.

Bennett entered four fillies in the $35,000 Angie C., which is limited to 12 starters with preference based on money won. After a total of 14 were entered, the only two horses without any earnings were pushed onto the also-eligible list. The two, Sweethrtofsigmachi and Bisbee's Prospect, both six-figure yearling purchases who had been working extremely well, remained there until nobody withdrew by scratch time on Saturday, when they were excluded. On Sunday, Bennett scratched two of his entrants on his own volition, which is allowed in stakes, leaving a field of 10.

"It was kind of a bad deal for the horses who got excluded, but it was pretty smart on Bennett's part," said Bullock. "I really don't know how I feel about it."

Bennett, who had one of the race favorites in Freedom March, the winner of the Pierce County Stakes in June, admitted that he entered four fillies in the Angie C. in hopes of excluding the two maidens, but said he intended to run all four.

"When I entered them, I intended to run them," he said. "But later I talked to the connections of Sassy N Slew and Boom Chicka Boom, and we used our best judgment and decided to scratch. It's too bad for the ones who didn't get to run, but they could have run them earlier and gotten some earnings, just like I did."

There were really only two opportunities to run $100,000 yearlings bred in Kentucky, however, and both of those maiden special weight races were open to males. The first came on June 2, which may have been too early for Sweethrtofsigmachi and Bisbee's Prospect, and the second was just last Saturday, which was obviously too late.

Sharon Ross, who trains Sweethrtofsigmachi for owner Rick Beal, was disappointed but not greatly upset that she didn't get to run her filly on Sunday.

"The way it turned out, with the rainstorm and all, I might have scratched our filly even if she had gotten in," Ross said. "I think they ought to look into changing the preference rules so this doesn't happen again, though, because it's really not very fair."

The preference rules for the Angie C. are the same ones that govern all races in the NW Race Series, which is governed by the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association.

"The rules can be changed," said Ralph Vacca, the WTBA's general manager. "We meet every year with the horsemen and the track to discuss possible changes in the series, and I'm sure this matter will be discussed. I'm just not sure what would be more fair than preference based on money earned."

* Vacca said catalogs for the WTBA's annual summer yearling sale, which is set for Sept. 3, went to the press on Tuesday and should be ready for distribution around July 25. He said 215 yearlings have been cataloged.