04/24/2002 12:00AM

Clement flexes his muscle in the opener


MIAMI - If Friday's opening-day feature at Calder, the $35,000 Powder Break Handicap, is any indication, racing secretary Bob Umphrey should have little trouble filling the other 65 stakes during the 2002-2003 meeting.

Umphrey split the 1 1/16-mile Powder Break into two divisions when the race attracted 17 fillies and mares. The first division has nine starters, led by the Christophe Clement-trained Bloomy. The second and stronger split goes with eight runners and features another Clement stakes winner, Sheppard's Watch, along with Bay Street Gal, Platinum Tiara, and Wander Mom.

In the past, Clement has been long gone from south Florida by the time Calder opened. But with the Calder season opening one month earlier than usual, Clement still has horses stabled at his winter headquarters at Payson Park.

Bloomy enters the Powder Break on a two-race win streak that includes a neck decision in a third-level allowance race in her 2002 debut at Gulfstream on March 17.

Sheppard's Watch will launch her 2002 campaign in the second division of the Powder Break. A listed stakes winner in Europe a year ago, she finished third, beaten less than three lengths, as the 9-5 favorite in the Calder Oaks here Oct. 13.

Bay Street Gal is dangerous when loose on the lead, a modus operandi that led her to an easy victory in Gulfstream Park's One Dreamer Stakes.

Platinum Tiara returns from Tampa, where she won the Hillsborough Stakes on turf in her last start. She finished fourth, a neck behind Sheppard's Watch, in the 2001 Calder Oaks.

Highlights of the 2002 stakes program include two multiple-stakes days, the $1.4 million Summit of Speed and $1.6 million Festival of the Sun. Eclipse Award winner Xtra Heat is being pointed to the $400,000, Grade 2 Princess Rooney Handicap on the July 13 Summit of Speed card.

"Having an Eclipse Award winner race here is a coup for the marketing department but it makes me tremble," said Umphrey. "Naturally I'd love to have a champion run here. The problem is going out and finding four or five others to run against her if she does come."

Homeister out three more weeks

Jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr., who fractured her right arm in a riding mishap shortly after the start of the second race at Gulfstream on Feb. 17, was expected to be back in time for opening day. But a training accident on Saturday, her first day back galloping after being given clearance by her doctors, will delay her return at least another three weeks.

Originally, Homeister was told she had broken the same arm Saturday, but additional X-rays revealed the new injury was not as severe.

"I was devastated when the doctors in the emergency room said I had re-broken the same arm and would need additional surgery," said Homeister, who won 125 races and finished second behind Cornelio Velasquez during the 2001 Calder meet. "But it turns out all I did was break off some cartilage at the spot where the original fracture was healing. My doctor said to take a few more weeks off to make sure the arm has healed completely and then I can go back to riding. What a relief it was when I heard that news."