08/21/2003 11:00PM

Formal Miss out if it's wet


MIAMI - Trainer Paul Maxwell will likely have one eye on the Weather Channel and one on the skies around Calder Race Course until his Formal Miss is safely in the starting gate for Sunday's $40,000 Dream On Stakes, an overnight event for 3-year-old fillies scheduled to be run at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf.

Formal Miss will go off as the favorite if the Dream On stays on the grass. If the race comes off the turf, Maxwell said he likely will scratch Formal Miss, a graded stakes-placed 3-year-old filly. Formal Miss was beaten 14 lengths racing over a wet track in the Convenience Stakes earlier this month.

"I think from here on in she's strictly going to be a grass horse," Maxwell said. "There were a combination of factors working against her in her last start, although I don't think she really liked the slop that much. I'd really love for her to get the chance to run on Sunday. She's feeling great and the timetable is perfect since it gives her 20 days until the Judy's Red Shoes, which is our immediate goal."

Formal Miss is owned by Elite Racing Partners LLC., a group that includes former jockey John Donahue and his son Gary, whose own riding career came to a halt when he was paralyzed in a racing mishap.

"She hasn't been the luckiest of fillies, that's for sure," said Maxwell. "She came back after a 103-day layoff and got beat in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride by Gal O Gal, who slipped along the rail to win. And then she just got caught in the Gaily Gaily by Devil at the Wire, who broke down pulling up after the race."

Maxwell shipped Formal Miss to Texas for the Lone Star Oaks July 4. She went off as the 6-5 favorite but again found the racing gods were not on her side.

"She had a tremendous amount of trouble at Lone Star," Maxwell recalled. "She got banged around leaving the chute and was shuffled about a dozen lengths off the lead and was forced to race wide around the turns. She was real game to finish third and just get beat a neck for second. If she'd won that race we'd have sent her to Saratoga for the Lake Placid."

Several days of rain and the uncertainty of the weekend weather led to a full field of 15 3-year-old fillies being entered for the Dream On. Among the other key contenders are Dyna Flyer, Spectacular Lisa, Crimson and Roses, and Teak Totem.

The Dream On is a prep for the $75,000 Judy's Red Shoes on Sept. 13, and it serves as a stepping-stone for the $200,000 Calder Oaks on Oct. 11.

Castro takes off mounts after spill

Apprentice Eddie Castro, who is giving veteran Manoel Cruz a battle for leading jockey honors this summer, took off his remaining mounts Friday after taking a spill in the seventh race. Castro, second in the standings with 94 winners entering Friday's card, went down aboard even-money favorite Reel Lass after she clipped heels approaching the clubhouse turn. He was expected to return on Saturday.

Cruz widened his lead over Castro by riding four winners on Friday's card, including Road Express, who gave trainer George Mikhalides his first win since taking over the local string for the Buckram Oak Farm.

* Calder has instituted a new claiming policy that prohibits any horse claimed during the current meet from racing outside the state of Florida until the end of the Tropical Park meet, which runs through Jan. 2, 2004. Any horse claimed during the Tropical meet will not be permitted to run outside the state for a period of 90 days from the date of the claim.