10/15/2001 11:00PM

A host of winners from Festival of Sun


MIAMI - Saturday's $1.5 million Festival of the Sun program lured 14,200 fans, produced an all-time combined Calder mutuel handle record of $8,878,346 and had stars aplenty. Here's a list of those whose reputations were enhanced in the Festival of the Sun.

Best of the Rest: Despite having just two starts, both sprints, under his belt in the 25 months since winning the 1999 Spend a Buck Handicap, Best of the Rest - a talented but injury plagued veteran - dominated arguably the most talented group of older handicap runners ever assembled at Calder in the Spend a Buck. He also came within .04 seconds of equaling the course record that was established over a much, much faster racetrack last month.

"He's an extraordinary horse who unfortunately has not been blessed with the soundest of legs," said trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. "He could have been in the top tier of handicap horses nationally if he'd stayed sound over the years. Right now I just hope he comes back off the race okay and we can get two or three good races out of him to showcase his talent."

Booklet: Small in stature but large in ability, Booklet faced the disadvantage of shipping to town (from Delaware) and taking on 13 locally based juveniles, including undefeated Carey's Gold, in the $400,000 In Reality Stakes. Booklet proved he was far and away the class of the field, easily drawing off to victory in the finale of the open division of the Florida Stallion Series.

"He had a lot to overcome but fortunately he adapted well and really won the race the right way," said trainer Steve Klesaris. "He even impressed me with this performance."

Blissful Kiss: Two months ago, the John Franks homebred Blissful Kiss was even-money to win the opening leg of the filly division of the Florida Stallion Series. But after two disappointing efforts she was ignored in the weeks leading up to the $400,000 My Dear Girl Stakes. Big mistake.

A lung infection was discovered to be the root of Blissful Kiss's two subpar efforts in the opening legs of the series. With that problem behind her, she was an easy three-length winner in the My Dear Girl, leaving little doubt that she is the best member of the division. Her performance was both rewarding and satisfying to her trainer, Bill White. "She was originally earmarked to go to Canada or New York, but the $400,000 purse for the My Dear Girl was the reason Mr. Franks decided to send her here for the summer," said White. "Winning this race was a long-term project and that's what makes it so satisfying to me."

Notebook: The Florida-based stallion Notebook saw his value skyrocket after three of his progeny, Booklet, Coolbythepool and Fappie's Notebook, won stakes on the Festival of the Sun program. He also sired Rulebook, runner-up in the In Reality.

Eddie Plesa Jr. and Marty Wolfson: Both trainers saddled a pair of winners on the Festival of the Sun card. In addition to Best of the Rest, Plesa won the $200,000 Calder Oaks with Sara's Success. Wolfson sent out Pleasantfar, who won the $100,000 Flying Pidgeon Handicap; Coolbythepool, who captured the $100,000 Shocker T. Handicap; and Rulebook, who ran second in the In Reality.

"I was very happy," said Wolfson. "I was especially pleased with Rulebook. He had a bad case of pharyngitis which caused him to run poorly in the first two legs of the Stallion Series and I was hoping he'd jump up and run a big one Saturday, which he did."

* Richard Buhrmaster has been appointed the new director of security at Gulfstream Park. He replaces Tony Otero, who will remain in his role as the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau representative at Gulfstream. Buhrmaster, 36, has worked in law enforcement for 15 years.