12/15/2005 12:00AM

Hometown hero can repel Northern invaders


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - If a group of horseplayers were polled, the majority would likely conclude that year-round Florida-based horses are typically inferior to the Northern invaders that spend their winters in the state - at least in high-level allowances and stakes.

There seems to be truth to that perception during the Gulfstream meet, but late during the Calder meet, it has been my experience that rule does not always apply. I've repeatedly seen year-round Florida horses score upsets against out-of-town invaders, particularly in main-track contests.

Another upset could come Saturday in the Fred W. Hooper Handicap at Calder. I like the Calder-based Dazzling Dr. Cevin to win the race at a price.

He's pure south Florida. A gelded son of little-known stallion Cutlass Fax, Dazzling Dr. Cevin has made 15 starts this year, all in the Sunshine State, with his last nine races coming at Calder.

By contrast, six of his 10 opponents last started elsewhere, led by Andromeda's Hero, who was fourth in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Nov. 25, and Niigon, the 2004 Queen's Plate winner who comes off a pair of recent runner-up finishes in stakes at Woodbine.

Dazzling Dr. Cevin hasn't raced in nearly the same kind of big-name races, but he has consistently produced in Florida. Prior to a third-place finish in the Carl G. Rose Classic Handicap on Nov. 12, he took the Calder Derby at 1 1/8 miles, the distance of the Fred W. Hooper.

In the Calder Derby, he ran down a loose-on-the-lead Dream On Dream On, who appeared home free coming into the lane. That performance earned Dazzling Dr. Cevin a 105 Beyer Speed Figure, among the best figures in the field.

His last race wasn't as good. Racing against older stakes horses for the first time in the Carl G. Rose Classic Handicap, Dazzling Dr. Cevin fell farther off the pace than usual and ended up third, five lengths behind Whos Crying Now and Supervisor, two opponents he again faces Saturday.

The past performances note that his rider that day, Julio Garcia, dropped the whip - but I doubt that cost him victory. More than anything, Dazzling Dr. Cevin appeared to bounce off a Calder Derby performance that had been easily the best of his career. Eddie Castro rides Dazzling Dr. Cevin on Saturday.

In addition to how quickly he ran in the Calder Derby, I like the determination this horse has shown by winning 6 of 21 starts for a win percentage of just less than 29 percent. Many of his principal opponents have won at lesser rates.

Racing over a familiar track and in a climate to which he is adjusted, he seems more likely to fire than his counterparts that have just recently shipped into south Florida.

Of course not every shipper from the North runs poorly at Calder. Pies Prospect, for example, won the Hooper in 2004 after a seventh-place finish in the Clark at Churchill. He also won for trainer Nick Zito and owner Robert LaPenta - the same connections that are represented by Seek Gold and Andromeda's Hero in Saturday's Hooper.

The Zito-trained horses, who are coupled in the wagering, will offer little value, however - leading me to play a price horse in Dazzling Dr. Cevin.

Revved Up looks appealing in McKnight

Of the three other stakes on Calder's card, the W.L. McKnight Handicap carries the most interest due to the presence of Revved Up, a 7-year-old gelding who appears ready to continue his rise to the top of the turf handicap division.

A winner of 5 of 7 starts in 2005, he comes off a 2 1/2-length victory in the Bonnie Heath Turf Cup over Silver Tree, subsequent winner of the Tropical Turf Handicap.

A versatile horse, Revved Up is capable of winning going 1 1/8 miles or 1 1/2 miles, the distance of the McKnight. He is the choice to beat Meteor Storm and Silverfoot.