09/04/2009 11:00PM

Dirt runners add to challenge in turf sprint


MIAMI - Monday's $34,000 allowance feature at Calder drew the usual array of suspects - Possetothemax, Midnight Ridge, and Lettie's Relic - from the top of the local turf division. It also attracted some of the more highly regarded main-track sprinters in the area, a group that includes Grade 3 winner Ikigai, multiple stakes winner Hypocrite, and the Grade 2 stakes-placed You Luckie Mann. All of that makes for an intriguing handicapping challenge, especially if the race goes as scheduled at five furlongs on the turf.

Possetothemax laid claim to the top spot in the turf sprint division after outfinishing Lettie's Relic by a neck in the Reappeal Stakes on June 20. It was the second grass win at the meet for Possetothemax, who deftly switched over to a wet main track to outgame Midnight Ridge by a nose under $35,000 starter allowance conditions Aug. 15.

Midnight Ridge won a second-level optional claiming test early in the session. He will have little choice but to come away winging for the early lead from his inside post Monday.

Lettie's Relic remains winless in five starts this season, although he has been close in his last three starts, including a heartbreaking near miss in the Reappeal.

Neither Ikigai, his uncoupled stablemate You Luckie Mann, nor Hypocrite has started on the grass.

Ikigai earned national attention after cruising to an easy 2 1/4-length victory and earning a 111 Beyer Speed Figure in Gulfstream Park's Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Handicap. But he's been somewhat of a disappointment ever since, and has been idle since finishing fifth after setting the pace in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap on July 11. Ikigai has license to handle the grass, being the older brother of Bonifacio, a 3-year-old filly by Even the Score who won her turf debut against entry-level allowance rivals earlier this summer at Del Mar.

You Luckie Mann also has been off since the July 11 Summit of Sprint card when he finished a late-running second following a slow start as the even-money favorite in the Grade 2 Carry Back Stakes. He too should like turf, being by Exchange Rate out of a West Acre mare.

Hypocrite is on the comeback trail after being sidelined by a small crack in his knee following his sixth-place finish in the Tampa Bay Sprint on April 4. He won a pair of overnight stakes at Tampa and Gulfstream to open the season.

Track to continue four-day schedule

Calder management has made an adjustment to its 2009 live racing schedule, removing eight days currently on the calendar in October and November to continue the four-day race week that has proven successful since the meet began in late April.

"Our four-day race schedule has proven to be healthy for our business," said John Marshall, Calder's general manger and vice president of racing.

The eight cancelled dates include Oct. 5, 15, 19, and 26 as well as Nov. 2, 16, 23, and 30.

* Representatives from Pure Thoughts farm in Loxahatchee, Fla., which earlier this year expanded its Thoroughbred division to provide a safe home for retired racehorses from south Florida, will be at Calder on Monday to sell a variety of memorabilia and gift items to help raise funds for its project. Both Calder Race Course and the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association have already made a strong financial commitment to the organization.