Updated on 09/18/2011 2:38AM

Gun Salute playing catch up


MIAMI - Gun Salute began the year with the promise of becoming one of the top grass runners in the country. He'll end the year hoping to build some momentum heading into the 2007 campaign. Saturday, in his final start of the year, Gun Salute goes off as the likely favorite against 11 rivals in the Grade 3 Tropical Turf Handicap at Calder.

A 1 1/8-mile race, the Tropical Turf is one of four $100,000 stakes on Saturday's Grand Slam I program, which also includes the Grade 3 My Charmer Handicap for fillies and mares on the grass and the What A Pleasure and Three Ring stakes for 2-year-olds.

Gun Salute was rated among the leading 3-year-old grass horses in the country last year, when he posted successive victories in the Grade 2 American Derby, Grade 1 Secretariat, and Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby in the summer and fall. Those triumphs earned him a spot in the Breeders' Cup Turf, but after being poorly drawn in post 13, Gun Salute failed to threaten, finishing eighth behind Shirocco.

Gun Salute took four months off before launching his 2006 campaign in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap on Feb. 25, when he faced three other Grade 1 winners. After finishing third as the 2-1 favorite, Gun Salute again went to the sidelines. He makes his first start since then in the Tropical Turf.

Despite the long layoff and a winless streak that spans nearly 14 months, Gun Salute will go off as the starting highweight under 120 pounds in the Tropical Turf. He will be joined in the lineup by stablemate Classic Campaign, a winner of his last two starts under allowance conditions.

Trained by Bill Mott, who won the 2005 Tropical Turf with Silver Tree, Gun Salute will have to be on top of his game to defeat a talented field that includes Drum Major, Interpatation, and Can't Beat It.

Drum Major comes off the best performance of his career, a head victory over Fishy Advice in the Grade 3 Knickerbocker Handicap at Aqueduct. Drum Major also has a win over the local course, a last-to-first, 2 1/2-length decision a year ago in the Pete Axthelm Stakes.

Interpatation turns back to a more suitable distance after finishing fourth behind English Channel in the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational at 1 1/2 miles at Belmont.

Can't Beat it takes on older horses for the first time after easily defeating 3-year-olds by three lengths in the Grade 3 Calder Derby.