07/25/2006 11:00PM

Juveniles set to take center stage


MIAMI - With the Summit of Speed and Extreme Day in the books, most of the attention here over the next several months will turn to the 2-year-olds eligible for the Florida Stallion Stakes program. The Stallion Stakes series kicks off Aug. 5 with the six-furlong Dr. Fager and Desert Vixen stakes and will be followed four weeks later by the seven-furlong Affirmed and Susan's Girl divisions. The series concludes with the In Reality and My Dear Girl on Oct. 14.

Purses for the first four races in the series have been raised this year for the first time in recent memory. The purses for the Dr. Fager and Desert Vixen were increased from $75,000 to $100,000, and the purses for the Affirmed and Susan's Girl were increased from $125,000 to $150,000. The extra money is a bonus for local trainers who have a serious contender in either division, including Steve DiMauro, whose undefeated Straight Faced is the undisputed leader among locally based 2-year-old colts and geldings.

Straight Faced, a son of Straight Man owned by Walter Donnelly, won his maiden by five lengths on June 5, then returned six weeks later to register an even more impressive win in the 5 1/2-furlong Birdonthewire Stakes, in which he earned a 95 Beyer Speed Figure. Among his victims in the Birdonthewire were Green Vegas, who was previously undefeated, Villainage, and Drums of Thunder. All three are expected to return in the Dr. Fager.

"He came out of the Birdonthewire well, and right now we're still planning on the Dr. Fager," said DiMauro. "If I had my own schedule, I would have liked to have given him a little more time between races, especially since he ran such a big number in his last start. But I don't, and the Dr. Fager is the most logical spot to go."

DiMauro said his owner and he picked Straight Faced out at the Ocala Breeders' sale in March. He said they were prepared to go as high as $60,000 for Straight Faced, but got a bargain when the bidding stopped at $48,000.

"He was a good mover and had some pedigree," said DiMauro. "And even though his pedigree suggests he'll be more of a sprinter, so far he has done everything easy, seems to finish strong, and looks like the type who will run a distance of ground."

DiMauro said he plans to give Straight Faced just one work for the Dr. Fager, a half-mile breeze here Sunday.

"I'd like him to go easy, but he always works quick, so I'm not so sure how easy he'll go," said DiMauro. "But thus far he appears to be the type of horse who keeps himself fit. I missed a few days of training between his first two starts because of a bruised foot and didn't do a lot with him, and he certainly ran well the second time."

The Dr. Fager and Desert Vixen will actually take a back seat on Aug. 5 to the afternoon's two co-featured events, the $250,000 Turf Sprint Championship and the $250,000 Distaff Turf Sprint Championship.

Nominations for the two five-furlong races were released earlier this week, with the Turf Sprint drawing 16 nominations, and the Distaff Turf Sprint drawing 17.

Topping the list for the Turf Sprint are Grade 3 winners Atticus Kristy and Man of Illusion, who swapped decisions in Kentucky during the spring. Also nominated were Justice for Auston, who finished fourth as the 2-1 favorite in the Calder Turf Sprint Handicap on the Summit of Speed card earlier this month, and Gin Rummy Champ, a locally based horse who upset the Calder Turf Sprint to earn his second straight victory.

The Distaff Turf Sprint will be headed by Nicole's Dream, among the top turf sprinters in the country. A well-traveled 6-year-old, Nicole's Dream has won three of her last four starts and 23 of 48 races overall during an amazing career that even took her to Japan last December to face the boys in the Group 1 Pacific Hong Kong Sprint.

Other potential starters for the Distaff Turf Sprint include Hot Storm, True Tales, and the locally based trio of Whenthedoveflies, Running Bocats, and Jewels N Gems.

First turf chance for juveniles

Saturday's main event, the $60,000 GTOBA Juvenile Filly Dash, will give 2-year-olds their first opportunity to try the turf here this season. A full field of 12 juveniles fillies was entered for the race, a five-furlong race restricted to progeny of Georgia Thoroughbred Owner and Breeder Association-nominated stallions. Runaway maiden winners Dantrelle Light, Adjusting, and Lucky Too should vie for favoritism, along with the undefeated My Friend Bren.

Local player wins Calder Handicapping Summit

Miami native Jeff Daich won the second annual Calder Handicapping Summit and earned a berth in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association/Daily Racing Form National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas in January. He will be joined in Las Vegas by Richard Prozanski and Robert Charowsky, who finished second and third. Daich is also eligible for a $1 million bonus offered by Churchill Downs should he win the National Handicapping Championship.

The Calder Handicapping Summit drew 169 entries. The next qualifying round at Calder for the National Handicapping Championship will be held on Oct. 15.