05/21/2008 11:00PM

Delightful Kiss returns on turf

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MIAMI - Trainer Pete Anderson would have preferred to bring Delightful Kiss back from his 9 1/2-month layoff on the dirt and around one turn. Instead, the multiple Grade 3 winner will open his 2008 campaign going 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf in the $36,000 Blazing Sword Stakes, one of three overnight stakes on Saturday's 11-race program at Calder.

Delightful Kiss has not started since Aug. 4 when he finished fifth following a wide trip in the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby. The gelded son of Kissin Kris won both the Grade 2 Ohio Derby and Grade 3 Iowa Derby and also finished third behind Street Sense and Any Given Saturday in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Delightful Kiss, a Hobeau Farm homebred, spent the remainder of his 3-year-old campaign back on the farm recuperating from a minor injury suffered in the West Virginia Derby as well as an arduous campaign that saw him run at eight different racetracks since beginning his 3-year-old season on New Year's Day in Calder's Tropical Park Derby. He returned to Anderson's barn at Calder earlier this winter.

"I entered him in a seven-furlong race on the main track here last week, but it didn't fill," explained Anderson. "I had two options left if I wanted to run him here, either Saturday on the turf or Monday's Memorial Day Handicap, which is around two turns over the main track, and I thought that might be a little hard on him the first time back. Especially over this tiring racetrack. My main goal at the moment is the Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows. It's worth a lot of money, and he ran one of his best races over that track when he won the Iowa Derby."

Delightful Kiss is no stranger to grass, having started six times on turf. He won his maiden over the local course at 2, although Anderson admits the late-running Delightful Kiss is better on dirt than turf.

"There's no substitute for a race, but he's been working steadily and won't come up short on Saturday," Anderson said. "If he likes the track, he'll run by them like they're tied."

If Delightful Kiss is to launch his comeback with a victory, he'll have to beat Croton Road, whose forte is grass and who has posted 7 of his 9 wins over his home course of Calder. Croton Road is coming off a third-place finish as the even-money favorite in the Jackie Wackie Stakes here May 3.

Saturday's program will get off to a fast start in more ways than one, with the five-furlong $36,000 Cool Air Stakes carded as the opening event of the day. The turf fixture drew a field of seven fillies and mares, including defending champion Charlie Papa, who led throughout to capture the 2007 Cool Air by two lengths over El Bank Robber. The victory was the seventh in succession for the former claimer, who has been winless in four subsequent tries.

The $36,000 Harmony Lodge for 3-year-old fillies will round out the afternoon's stakes action. R Salty Vet and Freedom Afleet top a compact lineup that also includes stakes winner Banga Ridge and the graded- stakes-placed Orinoquia.