10/14/2010 4:26PM

Mambo Meister back in Spend a Buck, but may skip Dirt Mile


MIAMI – A year ago, Mambo Meister used a victory in the Grade 3 Spend a Buck Handicap as a springboard to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, in which he finished fifth. He will return to defend his Spend a Buck title Saturday at Calder, although perhaps without the same ambitious goal in mind.

A 1 1/16-mile race, the Spend a Buck is once again a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and is one of five stakes on the undercard for Saturday’s Festival of the Sun program at Calder.

Mambo Meister rallied to a 3 3/4-length win over Motovato in the 2009 Spend a Buck, and three weeks later was beaten just two lengths in the Dirt Mile despite traffic problems through the stretch. But win or lose Saturday, trainer Phil Gleaves said he is uncertain Mambo Meister will run in the Breeders’ Cup.

“He’s done real well since he came home,” Gleaves said. “He has had three great breezes, and I expect him to run a great race on Saturday. I can give him excuses for his last two races, but I need to see for myself that he’s back on his game.”

At his best, Mambo Meister stands out over his eight rivals in Spend a Buck. He has won a pair of Grade 3 races here this year and finished second behind Big Drama in the Grade 2 Smile. He is coming off a pair of sixth-place finishes, in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Vanderbilt and in the Presque Isle Mile.

Mambo Meister should have plenty of pace to chase in the Spend a Buck, with Riversrunrylee and Cinnamon Road in the lineup. They’ll be joined by Midwest invader Mad Hatter and up-and-coming 3-year-old El Kingdom.

Trainer Milt Wolfson discovered why Trip for A.J.’s three-race winning streak was snapped when she finished fourth as a 1-5 favorite in the Judy’s Red Shoes − she came out of the race with a bruised foot. Now Wolfson must decide where to run her Saturday, having cross entered her in the $75,000 Calder Oaks on the turf or in the $55,000 Cinnamon Girl against older fillies and mares.

Wolfson said it took a few days before the bruise was discovered. She has missed a little training since the race.

“I haven’t worked her back since the last race because I didn’t want to take a chance she might bruise her foot again, but she’s had some strong two-minute licks, and she’s fit,” he said.

Wolfson said he would prefer to run Trip for A.J. in the Oaks as long as it stays on the turf.

The Oaks, run at 1 1/8 miles, drew a full field and includes Judy’s Red Shoes winner Successful Song, who has yet to try the grass. Trainer Marty Wolfson will send European invader Hasay in her U.S. debut.

The Cinnamon Girl, run at a mile and 70 yards on the main track, lured 11 entrants, four from the barn of Marty Wolfson. The Wolfson contingent is led by Amazing, winner of the Elmer Heubeck Distaff Handicap here two years ago when trained by Terry Oliver. Claimed for $75,000 by Farnsworth Stables this summer at Saratoga, Amazing returned to dominate a local allowance race by nearly six lengths four weeks ago.

Wolfson can also choose from Saratoga Tango, a 1 3/4-length winner of the Ema Bovary on July 31; Toocleverforwords, a 6 1/2-length allowance winner earlier this month; or the speedy Diva d’Oro.

The $75,000 Calder Derby at nine furlongs on the turf may be the best race of the day.

The field is led by Fly by Phil, who returns to the turf off a much-needed effort when fourth in the Needles on Sept. 25. That was his first start since capturing the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby here on New Year’s Day.

Bim Bam has won four stakes, including two over the local course. He finished fifth as the 2-1 choice following a wide trip in the Needles.

Tannersville has won three of his four starts on grass, his lone setback a third-place finish behind Bim Bam this spring in the Lord Juban.

Marcello makes his first start for Wolfson and first since finishing eighth in the Grade 1 American Derby at Arlington Park on July 17.

The Festival of the Sun stakes action kicks off with a pair of six-furlong sprints for 2-year-olds: the $65,000 Birdonthewire and its filly counterpart, the $65,000 Cassidy. Uno Caliente and Watch Me Go will probably be favored in the Birdonthewire, and stakes winner Ayoumilove is the one to beat in the Cassidy.