Updated on 09/16/2011 7:14AM

New schedule calls for early opener


MIAMI - The long Calder Race Course season has grown even longer. The deregulation of racing dates in Florida has moved the traditional late-May starting date up one month, and Friday's 10-race opener is the first of 181 programs to be presented here through Jan. 2, 2003.

The opening-day program will be highlighted by the $35,000 Powder Break Stakes for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on the turf. The event was split into two divisions and will be run as the fifth and ninth races.

The 8 1/2-month session will, as usual, be divided into two meets: Calder, which offers 128 programs from April 26 through Oct. 25, and Tropical at Calder, which operates from Oct. 26 through Jan. 2, 2003.

Despite opening four weeks earlier than usual, Calder will run only 10 more racing dates in 2002 than it did in 2001. The track will be dark from July 29 through Aug. 2 and will run only five days per week instead of six during the first six weeks of the Tropical meeting.

Stretching just 10 additional racing programs over an extra four-week period should prove beneficial to the overnight purse distribution according to Bob Umphrey, Calder's racing secretary.

Daily overnight purses will open at $185,000, and Umphrey hopes to increase that to $190,000 and beyond as the season progresses.

Overall purse distribution, including stakes, will start at $205,000 daily.

The 65-race, $8.3 million stakes schedule will again be highlighted by the Festival of the Sun on Oct. 12, which this year features nine stakes worth a total of $1.65 million, and the Summit of Speed on July 13, which will present six stakes with a combined value of $1.4 million. Added to the schedule will be the inaugural Florida Million for statebreds on Nov. 16.

This year's Summit of Speed will feature the $400,000 Princess Rooney and Smile Sprint handicaps, along with the Grade 3 Azalea Breeders' Cup Stakes.

The connections of Xtra Heat, last year's champion 3-year-old filly, have already announced their intention to point her for the Grade 2 Princess Rooney.

"I'm really pleased the way the Summit of Speed has taken off over the past couple of years," said Umphrey.

"This year we have increased the purse and added the Smile Sprint to the mix. I'm also hopeful the first running of the Florida Million will become another strong event. And last year's big winners of the Festival of the Sun, Booklet and Ms Brookski, have already won the Grade 1 Fountain of Youth and Grade 2 Davona Dale this winter."