09/23/2010 1:46PM

Festival preview packed with budding talent


MIAMI – Saturday’s Festival of the Sun Preview card at Calder may be missing its two marquee names, but there could be some stars in the making amongst the large fields that will assemble for the $85,000 Brave Raj and Foolish Pleasure Stakes. The one-mile and 70 yard Brave Raj and Foolish Pleasure are two of the five stakes races to be decided on the marathon 13-race program.

Awesome Feather, undisputed leader of the local 2-year-old filly division, and Gourmet Dinner, who currently stands alone amongst the 2-year-old colts and geldings stabled here this summer, both passed the Brave Raj and Foolish Pleasure to await the finales of the Florida Stallion Stakes on Oct. 16.

With Awesome Feather out, the Brave Raj lured a field of 10 juvenile fillies, led by Blue Eyed Sweetie, who defeated many of the same group by more than six widening lengths in the one-mile Lindsay Frolic Stakes on Aug. 28. In her two previous starts, Blue Eyed Sweetie finished a well-beaten second and third behind Awesome Feather in the Desert Vixen and J J’s Dream Stakes after having won her maiden at first asking going 4 1/2 furlongs in late May.

“I knew she’d be a nice filly from the outset, especially when she broke her maiden going short, since she’s just not that type of horse,” said Kathleen O’Connell, who trains the homebred Blue Eyed Sweetie for owner Gil Campbell. “She’s a big horse with a lot of leg underneath her, and I always believed she’d get better when she finally stretched out to the distance she needs.”

O’Connell said she’s glad she will be able to duck Awesome Feather one more time before ultimately crossing paths with the division leader again next month in the My Dear Girl.

“It doesn’t matter to me if we meet her now or later going two turns, although I like the idea of getting a little more seasoning under my filly’s belt before they do meet again,” said O’Connell. “I don’t care how good you are in any sport, when you go to the bigger leagues or in this case have to face better horses it’s always tough, and if you can take little steps along the way it makes the progression to the new level easier. I would love to win this race, do it as easily as possible, and have her progress from there.”

Beso Grande and Evil Queen finished third and fourth respectively behind Blue Eyed Sweetie in the Lindsay Frolic and may wind up running for second money in Saturday’s rematch.

Beso Grande was purchased privately by trainer Steve DiMauro for Half Hollow Racing after her debut on July 17 and returned quick dividends by winning her maiden three weeks later, outfinishing Evil Queen by less than one length over a sloppy track.

Stakes winners Too Experience and Machisa, along with the stakes-placed Rough’n Royal and recent maiden winner Swift Warrior head a field of 11 2-year-old colts and geldings in the Foolish Pleasure.

Too Experience, a former $16,000 claimer, remained perfect in three starts by capturing the one-mile Seacliff by three-quarters of a length over Andersonstate who also returns in the Foolish Pleasure.

Machisa stretches out and goes from grass to dirt after dominating the five-furlong Fasig Tipton Turf Dash in his last start.

Rough’n Royal may be the fastest of all the speed types in the Foolish Pleasure and comes off a second-place finish behind Gourmet Dinner in the seven-furlong Affirmed.

A fast pace should help the late-running Swift Warrior as well as Alley Oop Oop, who finished a troubled fifth in the Affirmed.