07/14/2010 5:32PM

Huge Summit of Speed day for locals

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MIAMI – Life has been a struggle for Calder horsemen over the last several years. Declining handle, a continuous rise in workers’ compensation fees, and other expenses combined with a squabble with management over advance-deposit wagering rights a couple of seasons back has made it tough for owners and trainers based in south Florida to keep their businesses viable.

But for one day, local horsemen had a reason to smile. For one day, it was good to be a Calder owner and trainer.

That day was Saturday, Summit of Speed Day, one that will be remembered as the day the big money finally stayed home.

Not only did Saturday mark the first time Calder-based runners swept all four graded stakes on the track’s marquee event, it was the first time Calder horses won more than a single graded stakes on a Summit of Speed card. Local runners had captured just five of the previous 30 graded stakes during the first 10 years of the Summit of Speed.

The local victories began with Pico Slew’s huge performance winning the Grade 3 Azalea, continued with Coffee Boy’s improbable upset of the 1-9 D’ Funnybone in the Grade 2 Carry Back and was completed when Big Drama won the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap and Jessica Is Back’s proved triumphant in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap. The winning purses in those four races totaled more than $630,000.

The general consensus among the three trainers who accounted for the four graded stakes wins – Marty Wolfson, David Fawkes and Joe Calascibetta – is that the weather and quirky nature of the Calder surface helped conspire against the invaders, although the hot and steamy conditions here last weekend were not much different than the weather that prevailed during the first 10 renewals of the Summit of Speed.

“I just think everything fell into place for the local horses,” said Wolfson who trains both Coffee Boy and Jessica Is Back. “Even though it had been very hot up north the previous week or two, the humidity is different down here. I also hoped we wouldn’t get any rain all week and sure enough it stayed dry. That made the track a little cuppier than usual, it had a little more give to it the last part of it, and favored closers like Jessica and Coffee Boy.”

The question now is what’s next for some of the heroes of the Summit of Speed card. Big Drama earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 104 and a guaranteed place in the starting gate in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint for his victory in the Smile.

“We have a few options to consider,” said Fawkes, who also sent out Big Drama’s kid brother Little Drama to a very impressive win in the Frank Gomez Memorial earlier Saturday. “There’s the Teddy Drone at Monmouth along with both the Vanderbilt and Forego at Saratoga.”

The $100,000 Teddy Drone is carded at six furlongs on Aug. 1, the Grade 1 Vanderbilt at six furlongs on Aug. 8, and the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga on Sept. 4.

“Chances are we’ll run in either the Teddy Drone or Vanderbilt first and then point for the Forego,” Fawkes said.

Pica Slew received a 101 Beyer Figure for her outstanding performance in the Azalea, and she has already been shipped to Saratoga, where she will make her next start in the Grade 1 Test. According to trainer Joe Calascibetta, who won three straight races here this summer with Pica Slew,a daughter of Pico Central, the filly will be stabled at the Spa with trainer Mike Hushion.

Mambo Meister didn’t win one of the four graded stakes on Summit of Speed day, but the versatile gelding certainly ran a winning race when he was second-best, 1 1/2 lengths behind Big Drama, in the Smile while making his first start at under a mile. According to trainer Phil Gleaves, his options also include the Vanderbilt and Forego as well as the $250,000 Presque Isle Mile on Sept. 10.