07/17/2001 11:00PM

For locals, Summit is ultimate dream


MIAMI - The second annual Summit of Speed program at Calder was highlighted by four major races packed with graded-stakes caliber horses, and by Dream Supreme, who performed as advertised, winning the $400,000 Princess Rooney Handicap in a cakewalk.

But there are two issues Calder must address: the precipitous drop in handle from the inaugural Summit of Speed last year, and the disappointing showing by local horses in the major stakes.

The 2000 Summit had a Calder record handle of more than $8 million, while Saturday's total was just over $6.5 million. Ken Dunn, Calder's president, was at a loss for a reasonable explanation for the large falloff in handle, mainly from out-of-state wagering sites.

Dunn said that the biggest declines were in Kentucky, Illinois, and New York, "although we were off across the board nearly everywhere across the country.

"We won't have the final marketplace shares until Friday, but what I'm selfishly hoping to find is that everybody was down on Saturday nationwide, that our actual share of the marketplace was nearly equal to what it was a year ago.

"Overall I was very pleased with the response we got," said Dunn. "And I was also happy with the ontrack attendance and handle, which is at least something we have a little control over. We were up nearly 1,000 in attendance from last year, despite being in direct competition with the Marlins-Yankees game next door that drew 40,000."

While Calder-based horsemen knew the competition would be stiff on Saturday, many who participated in the Summit had been quietly confident they could hold their own against the invaders, perhaps even win one or two of the big events. That did not happen, as only $138,000 of the $1 million up for grabs stayed in town.

The best finish the locally based runners could muster was the late-striding second-place finish of Sejm's Madness behind Texas Glitter in the $100,000 Calder Turf Sprint. Kipperscope (Sprint), Gallant Frolic (Carry Back), and Sugar N Spice (Princess Rooney) all finished third. Penny Blues also performed well in the main event, finishing fourth despite being forced to steady very sharply along the rail when put in tight quarters on the turn.

"The Summit of Speed accomplished just what management set out to do - bring in some of the best horses in the country," said Bill White, Calder's leading trainer, who did not participate in any of the big events. "Unfortunately, by doing so it makes it unrealistic to expect any typical Calder horses to have a big chance in those races."

White, however, remains supportive of the concept.

"By knowing management has made a commitment to the Summit of Speed year after year, it creates some motivation for owners to spend a little more money on a horse to eventually become competitive for the big purses," White said. "In the short term, Calder horses just aren't there yet, but the long-term benefit of the Summit of Speed could be a noticeable increase in the quality of horses stabled down here."

The presence of out-of-town horsemen in the Summit only figures to increase in the future as trainers around the country notice how ship-ins performed and become more comfortable sending their stars down to the area during the summer, when it's hot and humid.

Trainer Bill Mott, who sent out both Dream Supreme and her stablemate Illusioned to a similarly one-sided victory in the $250,000 Carry Back Stakes, said he would not hesitate to come back again next year.

"It's actually easier to ship a horse down here in the summer than it is to run one during late fall or early winter," said Mott. "At this time of the year, Northern-based horses have already grown accustomed to the heat. Later in the season they have a bigger adjustment to make from the cooler temperatures up north into the much warmer conditions in this area."