07/11/2001 11:00PM

C'mon Gaviola, you can do it again


ELMONT, N.Y. - Gaviola, a glittering jewel of a competitor distinguished for her consistency, attempts Saturday to return to her winning ways, at Belmont Park in the $250,000 New York Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/4 miles on the turf course.

She ran off a string of six consecutive victories last season under the direction of Billy Turner of Seattle Slew fame. A 4-year-old Cozzene filly, Gaviola also came through under pressure to win Aqueduct's Beaugay Handicap this spring. But when she ventured a trip to the Jersey Shore for last month's Matchmaker Stakes at Monmouth Park, she finished out of the money, in an uncharacteristic performance.

"She had a little extra time between races and was feeling so good," Turner said. "Jerry Bailey told me it was a problem getting her to settle down and she was out of gas well before the end. She's trained up to the New York Handicap nicely, but this one won't be easy. There is a lot of quality speed in the race, the course should be very rapid, and I believe they will flirt with the record."

The record in question is Paradise Creek's 1:57.60 set in 1994.

Turner expects South African import Spook Express to provide the stiffest competition. Finishing like a wild horse, she got up to edge Gaviola in the Suwannee River at Gulfstream last winter. With a fast pace expected for the New York Handicap, Spook Express's late kick takes on added significance. But Gaviola is so honest we feel she will find a way to win.

Gaviola is owned and was bred by Carlos Perez of Ecuador, a shrimp farmer who also operates Twilite Farm in La Grange, Ky. Perez purchased Forest Key, the dam of Gaviola, for $23,000 at the Keeneland January sale of 1994.

Her foal of 1995, a Digression filly, was sent to Peru. Her foal of 1996, a Cozzene colt, was sent to Japan. Her foal of 1997 was Gaviola, a keeper.

High stakes Summit

The eyes of American racing are on Calder Race Course in Miami Saturday for the second annual presentation of the imaginative Summit of Speed program.

Calder's long meeting extends through the summer and early fall. It is a challenge to maintain interest and president Ken Dunn has met that challenge with several well-organized festivals of racing, each with a different theme. Dunn called on racing secretary Bob Umphrey for a midsummer suggestion and Umphrey recommended a sprint program.

The first Summit of Speed, presented last summer, saw Calder's all-source wagering hit a record total of more than $8 million while attendance, despite rainy weather, was an excellent 9,149. Track officials expect to improve on those figures this weekend.

The Calder people will put on a good show. Their $400,000 Princess Rooney at six furlongs, the richest sprint in the nation for fillies and mares, has attracted a strong field, headed by the queen of the division, Dream Supreme. Dream Supreme is one of more than 20 horses who have flown to Miami for the Summit of Speed card from such racing centers as New York, California, Kentucky, and Texas.

The other highlights are the $250,000 Carry Back Stakes for 3-year-olds at six furlongs, the $250,000 Azalea Breeders Cup for 3-year-old fillies, the $100,000 Calder Turf Sprint at five furlongs on the grass course, and the $50,000 Rocket Man for 2-year-olds and up at two furlongs.

Calder projects a festival atmosphere to accompany its festival of racing and tries to ensure that its patrons have a good time at the track. This is marketing at its best and a shining example to the industry of what can be done to advance racing.