08/06/2003 11:00PM

Handy has strong pair


MIAMI - The opening divisions of Calder's Florida Stallion Stakes rarely draw the attention of trainers outside the confines of the Sunshine State. That will not be the case on Saturday when trainer George Handy ships down from his summer base at Suffolk Downs with a pair of juveniles who could provide the locals with formidable opposition in both the $75,000 Dr. Fager and $75,000 Desert Vixen stakes.

Handy's strongest hand is Kipper's Night in the six-furlong Dr. Fager. A son of Kipper Kelly, Kipper's Night was the most precocious juvenile to compete near the end of the Gulfstream Park meet, during which he won two races within a week, including the Mockingbird Stakes.

Handy gave Kipper's Night some time to recuperate from his early-season heroics, bringing him back at Monmouth last month in the Tyro Stakes, where he finished second behind trainer Todd Pletcher's odds-on favorite, Deputy Storm. Among those behind Kipper's Night in the Tyro was Hasselfree, who returned to post an impressive allowance victory at Saratoga last week and is a candidate for Saratoga's Grade 1 Hopeful later this month.

Handy will send out the undefeated Family Favorite in the six-furlong Desert Vixen. Family Favorite was a half-length winner in her debut at Suffolk Downs on July 22 and will get Lasix for the first time on Saturday.

Both Kipper's Night and Family Favorite are owned by Francis McDonnell, who shipped Fortunate Smile to Calder from New England for the 1996 Stallion Stakes, in which Fortunate Smile finished third in the Desert Vixen, third in the Susan's Girl, and second in the finale, the 1 1/16-mile My Dear Girl Stakes.

The last ship-in to win an opening leg of the Stallion Stakes was Snuck In, who captured the Dr. Fager for trainer Steve Asmussen in 1999.

The horse to beat in the Dr. Fager is Sir Oscar, who has won both his previous starts, including the Critierum Stakes in which he outgamed Charming Jim by a neck following a stretch-long battle. Sir Oscar is one of five unbeaten colts in the field, along with Baronage, Romantican, All True, and Silver Rapt.

Another key contender is Taiwan Charley, who showed marked improvement wearing blinkers for the first time, posting an easy 6 1/2-length maiden victory on July 26.

French Village, a 7 3/4-length debut winner on July 12, is the likely choice in the Desert Vixen. Outstanding Lady and Mystical Delite, who were a neck apart in first and second place in the Roamin Rachel Stakes, and impressive maiden winner Sweet Serenade should also be major factors.

Roamin Rachel and Sweet Serenade will race coupled for Kinsman Stable and trainer Manny Tortora.