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DRF Weekend: Calder roundup
Nobody has been any hotter around here for the past several weeks than apprentice jockey Luis Saez. The 17-year-old from Panama posted a four-bagger for the second consecutive Saturday last weekend that included his first U.S. stakes victory aboard Cinnamon Road in the Needles. Saez, who began riding locally only six weeks ago, has already moved into sixth place in the standings with 40 victories at a meet that began back in late April. He is riding winners at nearly a 25 percent rate.
Saez's success has not been lost on trainers or horseplayers, who are quickly jumping on the bandwagon.
"I've been around here a long time, and I've never seen a rider improve horses like he does," one veteran fan said after Saez guided longshot Pender's Tune to an improbable victory in Saturday's 12th race.
Even track linemaker Chuck Streva has gotten caught up in Saez's recent run.
"I've had to start adjusting the morning line down a point or even two on every horse he rides, because of all the betting action his mounts have been taking over the last few weeks," Streva said.
After getting off to a slow start, Steve Dwoskin's barn has caught fire over the past couple of months. That streak peaked Sunday with a hat trick that gave Dwoskin 25 winners for the meet and catapulted him into third place in the trainer standings behind Bill White and Marty Wolfson.
Dwoskin, who mostly trains horses that he owns, posted 5 victories and 3 seconds from 9 runners he sent postward last week and was deprived of a rare four-bagger on Sunday when his 8-5 first-time starter Sharper Lisa was upset by 50-1 Lawyer Jen. Lawyer Jen received a real wake-up call and ran five furlongs in 59 seconds and change in the afternoon's sixth race for bottom-level maiden claimers.
The best horses in Dwoskin's barn are the stakes-caliber turf sprinter Lettie's Relic and the much-improved Holiday Blake, who reeled off three consecutive allowance victories earlier this summer before finishing fourth in his most recent start.
Veteran trainer Bill Kaplan was hot - and understandably so - about the stewards' decision to disqualify Temo's Dream out of an apparent victory in Saturday's Needles Stakes. Temo's Dream, trained by Kaplan, moved readily to pacesetter Cinnamon Road and appeared far and away the stronger of the pair at that point of the race when he ducked in suddenly, forcing Cinnamon Road to take up briefly near the eighth pole. Temo's Dream ultimately pulled away to a 1 1/2-length victory, despite continuing to take an erratic path while well clear approaching the wire.
"I don't argue that my horse interfered with that other horse, but it was obvious he was going by him at the time and that he was going to win easily," Kaplan said. "From what I've seen when similar incidents have taken place here this summer, if the foul did not alter the outcome of the race, the number was allowed to stand even if the jockey was eventually given days for careless riding. And that certainly seemed to be the case here."
Despite losing the victory, Kaplan was justifiably proud of the performance of the steadily improving Temo's Dream, whose career has turned around dramatically after some minor throat surgery earlier this year.
Handicappers might want to upgrade any horses making up ground on Sept. 24 and 25, when the main track favored speed and stalkers. Among the horses to be placed on that list are S and S Runner, who rallied behind even-money, front-running winner Shady Spot in the sixth race on Sept. 24; Street Appeal, who made a run from off the pace before hanging late to be third to odds-on Wyatt's Women in the eighth race that same afternoon; Bobs Tiebreaker, a rallying second in the ninth on Sept. 25; and Mad Mambo, who finished willingly when the runner-up in the Sept. 25 finale.
With the Festival Preview in the books, the next big event here will be the Festival of the Sun on Oct. 17, featuring seven stakes races including the $400,000 finales of the Florida Stallion Stakes - the In Reality and My Dear Girl divisions, both of which will be decided at 1 1/16 miles. Nominations for the five other stakes to be offered on the card close Saturday.
There are only a handful of horses entered to run in Saturday's program to comment on:
* Popular Act (3rd race): Zipped an opening three furlongs in 35.88 seconds before tiring late, eventually completing a half-mile in 49 from the gate on Sunday morning while showing improved speed after ducking in sharply when breaking from the rail in her last start. Like the fact that trainer Milt Wolfson sent her back for some gate schooling after the bad experience several weeks earlier. Reunites with Saez and looks very live in this spot.
* Cat Ferrad (6th race): Breezed an easy half-mile in 49.25 in her only recorded drill since fading far back trying stakes company and turf in the Catcharisingstar Stakes nearly four weeks earlier. Wore blinkers for the first time in the stakes and was equipped with blinkers once again in her most recent work. Ran too well at first asking on the main track against straight maidens not to give another chance, but must be wary about the inside draw.
* Hellen's Choice (8th race): Clocked this lightly raced 2-year-old in 49.40 to the seven-eighths pole and liked the way he got his final furlong in 12.49 around the turn without urging. Got hung up in a speed duel, paid the price in his last start, and has now caught slop in both career outings. Unfortunately, like his mate Cat Ferrad in the sixth, he too must begin from the rail, which is especially tough out of the seven-furlong chute.
* Sliding In (8th race): Just like the official clockers, caught this unraced 2-year-old in 35.75 for three furlongs, after which he was eased up fairly abruptly in his final prep for Saturday's scheduled debut. Obviously has a turn of foot, but seven furlongs is a tall order off the bench and must consider the fact that the blowout was his first recorded trial of any kind since Aug. 29.
* Fantastic Lisa (10th race): Obviously better suited to turf than dirt, so her last can probably be tossed. Has turned in three interim works in preparation for a likely return to grass Saturday, including a recent half-mile drill in 49.35. Especially liked the way she galloped out with interest to the seven-furlong pole, an indication that she appears to be holding her form nicely despite the recent disappointment on the main track.
* Other notable workers this past week included Holiday Blake and Duke of Mischief. Holiday Blake zipped a half-mile in 48.92 over a tiring track late Saturday morning, although he did tire some through the latter stages under pressure. Duke of Mischief, trainer Dave Fawkes's graded-stakes-caliber 3-year-old, breezed an easy half-mile in 49.55 on Monday, completing his final furlong in 11.75 before galloping out five-eighths in a solid 1:02.25, which was still good enough to earn the bullet on the tab at that distance.
HORSES TO WATCH
RARE RED BIRDS
Trainer: Myra Mora
Last race: Sept. 25, 3rd
Finish: 6th by 13
Two-year-old was victimized by a rough run in his debut but showed promise nonetheless. He recovered from a very slow start to rush to contention and weave his way between horses down the backstretch before getting in some tight quarters while also racing greenly and lugging in near the three-sixteenths pole. Expecting he'll improve from the experience.
Trainer: Steve Dwoskin
Last race: Sept. 26, 3rd
Finish: 2nd by 2 3/4
Flashed a nine-point Beyer improvement with a race under his belt, although still showed signs of greenness, especially following the break when seemingly pulling himself up after leaving the gate alertly and sprinting to a brief lead. Liked the way he made a second run to join the leaders on the final turn after taking up briefly in the run down the backstretch, only to be discouraged by the more experienced Hoopla. Ready to graduate.
THANK U PHILIPPE
Trainer: Marty Wolfson
Last race: Sept. 26, 8th
Finish: 4th by 5
Young colt is much better than his two-turn debut might suggest when fading late as a 7-5 choice. Had the misfortune of encountering trouble right from the start when shuffled back to last entering the clubhouse turn, after which he was forced to lose considerable ground the remainder of the trip. Got fanned widest of all turning for home when taking a run at the leaders but was unable to sustain the bid through the final furlong. May ultimately prove to be better suited to six or seven furlongs, but worth giving another chance around two turns.