07/14/2008 11:00PM

Near-miss big hit for two locals

Email

MIAMI - Trainers Myra Mora and Brian Pritchard didn't win any of the four graded stakes on last Saturday's Summit of Speed card. But both came close enough to be all smiles at the end of the marquee event on the Calder schedule.

Mora was ecstatic over the performance of Gentleman James, who finished second for the second time in less than a month to his nemesis Golden Spikes in the Grade 2 Carry Back Stakes.

Pritchard was pleased with the effort of How's Your Halo, who was second-best at odds of 50-1 behind the nation's premier sprinter Benny the Bull in the Grade 2 Smile.

"I had two emotions after the race," said Mora, looking back on the Carry Back several days later. "I was happy he ran so well, and sad because we did not win. But to me he ran a winning race and that's all you can ask for. Golden Spikes was out in the middle of the track and we were on the rail and I don't think my horse saw him until the last minute. He dug in once he did and took another little surge but the other horse just had too much momentum."

The final finish of the Carry Back mirrored that of the Unbridled Stakes four weeks earlier in which Golden Spikes defeated Gentleman James by a head.

Mora says she has no real plans for Gentleman James's next start other than to try to avoid Golden Spikes if she can.

"There are no more really big races here, but my horse does have some allowance conditions left," said Mora, who trains Gentleman James for owner Timothy O'Toole. "That was the one mistake I made when I had Tour of the Cat. He went right from his one-other-than condition into stakes, and we never collected those allowance conditions."

How's Your Halo overcame a slow start then slipped through along the rail to finish just two lengths behind Benny the Bull and a length in front of Rockerfeller in the Smile. Four weeks earlier, How's Your Halo had finished a distant second behind Rockerfeller in the Ponche Handicap.

"That was great the other day," said Pritchard who owns How's Your Halo as well as trains him. "He's been training so good but has had a lot of bad luck in his races. I knew he'd hit the board if he got a good trip on Saturday, and sure enough he finally got a clean run. For a moment I even thought we had him, but Benny the Bull is the best in the world."

How's Your Halo, a 5-year-old son of Halo's Image, finished fourth in the 2007 Smile. Eight weeks later he was at Saratoga where he also ran fourth at odds of 68-1 behind eventual sprint champion Midnight Lute in the Grade 1 Forego. And a trip to the Spa looks to be in his future again this summer.

"I'm definitely thinking about the Forego again," said Pritchard. "I might even turn him right around in two weeks and go for the Vanderbilt, depending upon how the competition would shape up. I think he's probably a notch below the top sprinters in the country."

Golden Spikes tops all locals

Golden Spikes was the only Calder-based runner to win one of the four graded stakes on the Summit of Speed card. Trainer Joe Calascibetta's Dubai Majesty joined How's Your Halo and Gentleman James as runners-up in a graded stakes when finishing a distant second behind the undefeated Indyanne in the Grade 3 Azalea.

Golden Spikes's final time of 1:11.20 seconds was .21 faster than Benny the Bull's time for the same distance. But Golden Spikes received a Beyer Speed Figure of only 102, three points less than Benny the Bull's 105. Indyanne and Mistical Plan - who won the Grade 1 Princess Rooney - each earned Beyers of 108.

The Beyer number aside, Golden Spikes's performance was most impressive considering he had to steady and angle outside entering the far turn. His final quarter-mile split of 24.92 seconds was also the fastest, by almost a full second, of the four graded stakes on the card.

"What I liked about him was the way he lost momentum yet was still able to finish so strong once he got to the outside," said Marty Wolfson, who trains Golden Spikes. "He's definitely a much better horse when racing on the outside. I think he gets a little intimidated when he's inside horses. And this last effort shows why I feel seven-eighths is probably his perfect distance."

Wolfson is currently leaning toward pointing Golden Spikes for the seven-furlong, Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga on Aug. 23.

Wolfson also said that Shes All Eltish came out of her third-place finish in Saturday's Delaware Oaks in good shape.

"She got hung real wide and I'm also under the impression a horse really needs to work or race over that track at Delaware," said Wolfson. "The two that beat her that day had both won races over the track."

Wolfson said Shes All Eltish could make her next start in the Monmouth Oaks on the Haskell undercard.

Summit of Speed handle drops

The total all-sources handle on the Summit of Speed card was $5,533,864, far and away the lowest in the eight-year history of the event and down $1.6 million from last year's total. The previous seven Summit of Speed cards all had 13 races while this year's program had only 10.

The drop off in business also could be due in part to the fallout from the purse dispute between local horsemen and track management that was not settled until earlier in the week. It prevented Calder from sending its simulcast signal out of state until just 48 hours before the Summit of Speed.

Sweetnorthernsaint nears return

Sweetnorthernsaint continues to move closer to his return, although there's still a question of whether his comeback will come on turf or dirt. Sweetnorthernsaint, the favorite in the 2006 Kentucky Derby, worked five furlongs on the turf in 1:01.05 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.28 with jockey Manoel Cruz aboard for trainer Leo Azpurua here Monday.

Sweetnorthernsaint is one of two members of the 2006 Derby field training at Calder this summer. Point Determined, who finished ninth behind race winner Barbaro in the 2006 Derby, was scheduled to make his first start in nearly 22 months in a seven-furlong allowance dash here last Friday but was scratched by trainer Kirk Ziadie.