11/29/2005 12:00AM

Grand Slam I stakes attract heavy hitters

Sand Springs, here under exercise rider Leana Willaford, is the My Charmer's likely favorite.

MIAMI - The Gulfstream Park meet is a month away, but Saturday's Grand Slam I card at Calder has a Gulfstream-like flavor to it with many of the nation's foremost trainers and riders well represented in the four stakes races on the 12-race program.

The featured Tropical Turf Handicap, a Grade 3 race, drew entries from trainers Christophe Clement (Saint Stephen), Shug McGaughey (Settle Up), Bill Mott (Silver Tree), Todd Pletcher (Icy Atlantic), and the California-based James Cassidy (Noble Masterpiece). The honor of saddling the highweight in this evenly matched race, however, goes to Norman Pointer, who sends out Hotstufanthensome under 118 pounds.

The co-featured My Charmer Handicap, also a Grade 3, is populated by horses trained by Clement, Mott, Pletcher, McGaughey, and Cassidy - as well as a travel-weary Graham Motion, who is back in the United States after spending last weekend in Japan with Better Talk Now. Mott sends out the My Charmer highweight and favorite, Sand Springs. Cassidy saddles his Grade 1 winner Ticker Tape. Clement has the uncoupled pair of Spotlight and Snowdrops. Pletcher brings in Path of Thunder, McGaughey goes with La Reina, and Motion runs the English-bred Fin.

The Pletcher-trained Capozzene and Saint Augustus will be among the favorites in the $100,000 Three Ring and What a Pleasure stakes for 2-year-olds.

Capozzene figures to face a stiff challenge from the Cassidy-trained Golden Silk and the locally based pair of Stolen Prayer and Mia's Reflection in the Three Ring.

Saint Augustus is in a What a Pleasure field that also includes trainer Eoin Harty's Grade 2 stakes-placed Changing Weather, the Dallas Stewart-trained Flanders Fields, and the undefeated local favorite Electrify.

Jockey assignments for the Grand Slam I stakes include Jerry Bailey on Sand Springs, Capozzene, Flanders Fields, and Silver Tree; Ramon Dominguez on Saint Augustus, Icy Atlantic, and Spotlight; Mike Smith on La Reina and Settle Up; and Jose Valdivia Jr. on Ticker Tape, Golden Silk, and Noble Masterpiece.

Big guns fire away

Pletcher is already off to a fast start at the Tropical at Calder meeting, saddling 6 winners from his first 12 starters, and having only 2 of the 12 finish worse than third. Harty (2 for 2) and McGaughey (1 for 1) both were perfect at the meet heading into Thursday's card.

Harty has horses stabled in south Florida for the first time this winter, with two dozen members of Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's Darley Stable bedded down at Palm Meadows. A 43-year-old native of Ireland, Harty wasted little time making his presence felt here by sending out both Armament and Barcola to easy maiden victories on Saturday.

Changing Weather will try to keep Harty's meet record perfect in the 1 1/16-mile What a Pleasure. Changing Weather was an impressive winner in his career debut this summer at Saratoga, after which he ran second behind the highly regarded Private Vow in Belmont Park's Grade 2 Futurity. In his most recent start, Changing Weather encountered trouble at the break and finished a nonthreatening fifth in the Grade 3 Nashua.

Changing Weather will stretch out around two turns and race in blinkers for the first time in the What a Pleasure.

McGaughey sent out his first starter of the meet, Wrapped, to a game debut win under meet-leading rider Manoel Cruz in Monday's finale. Wrapped, a 3-year-old homebred son of Out of Place, is owned by Cynthia Phipps.

Cruz in control

Cruz, who is on his way to what would be his first local riding title since the 2003 Calder spring-summer meet, tied the single-day Tropical at Calder record by riding six winners on Sunday. The mark is also held by Jacinto Vasquez (1990), Rene Douglas (1993), and Javier Castellano (2000). Eddie Castro owns both the track and U.S. record for most victories on a single card - nine, set earlier this year.

Cruz has won 43 races through the first 27 days of the meet. Jorge Chavez is second with 28 wins, while Castro, currently on a 17-day suspension, has 25 wins.

Castro will be permitted to accept mounts on Saturday's Grand Slam I card, for which he will serve an additional one-day suspension later this month. Castro is booked to ride Stolen Prayer and Electrify for trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. in the two juvenile stakes and Elle Runaway for trainer Marty Wolfson in the My Charmer.

Grand Slam I

It's the first of three four-stakes Saturdays in December at Calder.

Tropical Turf (G3)$100,0003YO & up1 1/8 miles (T)
My Charmer (G3)$100,0003YO & up F&M1 1/8 miles (T)
What a Pleasure$100,0002YO1 1/16 miles
Three Ring$100,0002YO Fillies1 1/16 miles