10/01/2008 11:00PM

Ikigai may actually get tested in The Kaiser


MIAMI – Saturday’s $55,000 The Kaiser Stakes at Calder is carded at five furlongs on the grass. But with half the 12 horses entered for the main event winless on turf, one fact becomes fairly obvious: There is rain in the forecast for south Florida once again this weekend.

Rain or shine, the most intriguing member of the field is the lightly raced but extremely promising Ikigai, who dominated his competition in both of his starts since switching to trainer Marty Wolfson’s barn earlier this summer. Those two victories came on the main track, although Wolfson did enter the son of Whywhywhy for the turf for his local bow, a race eventually washed over to a sloppy main track on Aug. 23.

Ikigai has not been outrun to the lead in any of his four career starts, although he faces far and away his stiffest test on Saturday. He faces older horses in this race, and he defeated 3-year-olds in his two wins, which came against maiden-claiming and first-level optional claiming competition. He also has to outrun fellow speedsters Sparkle City and Machismo in The Kaiser.

Should local weather forecasters turn out to be poor handicappers and The Kaiser is decided as scheduled on grass, proven turf commodities like Mr. Silver and Lettie’s Relic look like the ones to beat.

Mr. Silver shortens up in distance after finishing a game second after contesting the pace in the 7 1/2-furlong The Vid Stakes two weeks earlier. A stakes winner, Mr. Silver has captured 2 of his 13 grass sprint outings, including a high-priced optional claimer during the final week of the Gulfstream Park meet.

Track condition should not matter to Lettie’s Relic, a versatile sort, who benefitted from a change in surface to capture the five-furlong Hooting Star by a length over the main track on Aug. 9. Lettie’s Relic had no excuse or late kick, however, when finishing nearly two lengths behind Mr. Silver in The Vid.

A switch to grass would enhance the chances of How’s Your Halo, who returns home off a couple of disappointing stakes tries out of town, including an eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Cup Turf Dash. In his last local appearance, How’s Your Halo turned in the race of his life when finishing second behind this year’s top-rated sprinter, Benny the Bull, in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap. Despite that big performance, How’s Your Halo remains winless on the year.

The Kaiser could also mark both the turf and 2008 debut of stakes winner On the Vineyard, who has not started in nearly a year. On the Vineyard has trained forwardly for his return for trainer Lynne Scace.

Dukes Flying Tiger rallied to upset the grassy Heckofaralph Stakes here early this summer, his only win in four career outings on turf.