05/14/2007 11:00PM

Easy to root for Charlie Papa


MIAMI - Ask retired Daily Racing Form columnist Joe Hirsch who he was rooting for prior to any important race and his answer would always be the same.

"The best story," Hirsch would reply with a twinkle in his eye.

Well, if Hirsch were around Calder for Sunday's $50,000 Cool Air Stakes on the turf, there is little doubt he would have been pulling for Charlie Papa. And as so often was the case during his remarkable career, he would have found himself rooting home another winner.

Charlie Papa led throughout under jockey Sebastian Madrid in a two-length victory over El Bank Robber in the five-furlong Cool Air. The win was the seventh in a row for Charlie Papa, a daughter of Indian Charlie whose streak has now spanned more than 2 1/2 years.

Owned by Kennedy and Hess Thoroughbred Racing, Charlie Papa began her streak at Hoosier Park on Oct. 21, 2004. Each of her next five victories came at Tampa Bay Downs, where she was claimed by her present connections for $12,500 during January of 2005. She has been trained and pampered since that time by Connie Kendall, a veteran horsewoman who lives in Tampa.

"She's like our child," said Kendall, 57, who has been training horses since 1974. "After we got her, we realized she had some problems and we kind of nursed her through a couple of seasons. But then when we knew we were going to keep her we did some surgery and removed chips from her right knee. She was game running with them and obviously even better without them."

Charlie Papa had won four in a row following a 1 1/2-length victory in her grass debut at Tampa on Jan. 6, 2006. She had the surgery, returned 13 months later, and continued the streak with two allowance wins on the Tampa Bay Downs turf before taking to the road for the first time and winning the Cool Air at Calder on Sunday.

"We decided to try her on the grass for the first time because the turf course at Tampa is very forgiving," Kendall said. "And we wanted to see if it would make things easier for her. She obviously took a liking to it and, most important, she comes back good off the grass."

Charlie Papa will remain stabled at Tampa Bay Downs until the track closes its barn area over the weekend, and then she will move to the Infields, a training center in the Tampa area.

"Tampa is our home, and that's where we'll keep her," said Kendall, who has two other horses in training. "I'm semi-retired now and usually take the summers off, but we'll keep her going and look for races on the grass at Calder. There are a couple of big ones here this summer and those are our main goals right now."

Kendall was referring to the $100,000 Distaff Turf Sprint on July 7 and the $250,000 Distaff Turf Sprint Championship Handicap on Aug. 11.

And you know who Joe Hirsch will be rooting for in those races.

Drums of Thunder to Belmont Park?

Drums of Thunder, sidelined since suffering an infection in his leg while preparing for the Florida Derby in late March, worked a half-mile in 49.60 seconds at Calder on Monday. Trainer Bill Kaplan said if all continues to go smoothly he might run Drums of Thunder in the seven-furlong Woody Stephens Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

"I was very pleased with the work," said Kaplan. "It was the first time we've really asked him to do anything really serious since he went back into training after recuperating from the infection."

Take D' Tour drills on turf

Another big name on Monday's work tab was Grade 1 winner Take D' Tour, who drilled five furlongs in 58.60 on the turf. Trainer David Fawkes is preparing Take D' Tour to defend her title in the Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont on June 16.

Take D' Tour hasn't run since finishing second in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn on April 7.

"With 10 weeks between races it's good to give them a little something different on their routine to keep them interested," Fawkes said when asked why the work was on the grass. "She ran well on the turf earlier in her career so I know she handles it."

* Trainer Barry Rose confirmed Cornelio Velasquez will ride Hal's My Hope in Saturday's Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont. Hal's My Hope is coming off a 12-length victory in the Unbridled Stakes here on April 28.

* Hold'em or Fold'em and Marnesia's Big Boy will likely vie for favoritism in Thursday's $26,000 feture race, for 3-year-olds at a mile and 70 yards under entry-level allowance conditions. The field also includes Fearless Eagle, Egerton, Taxicab, and Higher Appeal.