09/17/2003 11:00PM

Last tune-up for Florida series finale


MIAMI - Tap Dancer will be the public's choice, but Hopefortheroses is the sentimental favorite to win Saturday's $100,000 Foolish Pleasure Stakes for 2-year-olds at Calder. The mile and 70-yard Foolish Pleasure shares top billing on the 13-race program with its filly counterpart, the $100,000 Brave Raj Stakes.

Both the Foolish Pleasure and Brave Raj serve as the final major local preps for the $400,000 In Reality and $400,000 My Dear Girl divisions of the Florida Stallion Stakes to be run on Oct. 11.

Hopefortheroses was trained by his owner-breeder, Harold Rose, who died last week at the age of 92. A half-brother to two-time Grade 1 winner Hal's Hope, Hopefortheroses will be saddled for the first time in the Foolish Pleasure by Rose's son, Barry, who received his trainer's license earlier this week.

Tap Dancer and Hopefortheroses have split their two previous meetings. Hopefortheroses led throughout to register a 1 1/4-length victory when the pair met under maiden special weight conditions on Aug. 3. But Tap Dancer has since returned to win his next two starts, including the one-mile Seacliff Stakes on Aug. 30, defeating Hopefortheroses, who finished three lengths back in third.

Tap Dancer, a homebred son of Sword Dance, will use the Foolish Pleasure as a stepping-stone to the In Reality, according to his trainer, Kathleen O'Connell. Hopefortheroses is not eligible for the Stallion Stakes.

Tap Dancer, who will again be ridden by Eduardo Nunez, took the worst of the post position draw for the Foolish Pleasure, as he breaks from the outside post in the field of 10 colts and geldings. Hopefortheroses begins from post 8.

Second of June could give the two favorites a run for their money if he is able to break with his field. He overcame a poor start to win his debut but could not rebound from an even slower beginning when he finished sixth in the Seacliff.

O'Connell will also saddle one of the top contenders, Queen Geraldine, in a wide-open Brave Raj. Queen Geraldine finished fourth after setting the pace to midstretch in the Lindsay Frolic Stakes on Aug. 30 and should benefit from that race, her first try going a mile. She will be equipped with blinkers for the first time.

Queen Geraldine is one of only three fillies in the Brave Raj to have been around two turns. The others are Coquinerie, who rallied from far back to win a maiden special weight race going a mile on Aug. 31, and Malindi. Coquinerie figures to benefit from a fast pace as the Brave Raj field is loaded with speed.

The lone stakes winner in the Brave Raj is Horah for Bailey, who outfinished Dianthus to win the five-furlong Catcharising Star Stakes three weeks ago. Prohibido Olividar has the most stakes experience of anyone in the lineup, having finished third in both the Desert Vixen and Susan's Girl divisions of the Florida Stallion Stakes and third in the J J'sdream Stakes. She will break from post 11.