10/13/2009 11:00PM

Motovato back at home for Wolfson


MIAMI - While Jackson Bend's quest to sweep the open division of the Florida Stallion Stakes with a victory in the $400,000 In Reality Stakes may be the most compelling story on Saturday's Festival of the Sun program, the race that figures to draw the most national attention will be one that offers only one-quarter the purse but a free ticket into the starting gate for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile - the Grade 3, $100,000 Spend a Buck Handicap.

The 1 1/16-mile Spend a Buck drew a dozen entrants, including the multiple Group 1-winning South American filly Lady Shatzi and a trio of 3-year-olds led by Temo's Dream and Cinnamon Road. But the main focus in the race will be on Motovato and Mambo Meister, both of whom return home off somewhat disappointing performances up north.

Motovato, one of five horses trainer Marty Wolfson has entered in the seven stakes on Saturday's card, is coming off a fifth-place finish over the Tapeta surface in the Presque Isle Mile. That effort would in all likelihood preclude him from running in the Breeders' Cup even if he were to earn an automatic invitation by capturing the Spend a Buck. The Dirt Mile will be run over the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita.

"He didn't like the artificial surface, and I don't like running my horses over artificial surfaces," said Wolfson.

Motovato does like his home course at Calder, where he captured an allowance race by 15 lengths and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 115 at 3 as well as a pair of overnight stakes here earlier this year. His lone local setback was a second-place finish following a slow start in the Grade 3 Memorial Day Handicap.

Mambo Meister finished a late-running fourth in the Grade 3 Red Bank at Monmouth, his third start since shipping north this summer for trainer Phil Gleaves. Mambo Meister was also second in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga. While perhaps best on grass he has won 4 of 10 career starts over dirt, including two overnight stakes.

Wolfson figures to be a major player in several of the other stakes on the Festival card, including the In Reality, where his Thank U Philippe appears to be one of the main obstacles in Jackson Bend's path toward sweeping the series. Thank U Philippe finished a troubled fourth as the 7-5 favorite making his two-turn debut last month in the Foolish Pleasure.

"He couldn't have gotten any worse of a trip than he had in that last race, and I think he's going to run a much better on Saturday," said Wolfson. "The good thing is that he's drawn inside the other favorites, so that should really help his chances."

Wolfson will bring former local riding champion Eddie Castro down from his New Jersey base to ride not only Motovato and Thank U Philippe but also likely favorite Mr. Green in the $75,000 Birdonthewire Stakes and Royal Card in the Grade 3 Calder Oaks. Wolfson also has Winsockie in the $400,000 My Dear Girl.