12/07/2013 6:32PM

Calder: Csaba comes through in Hooper Handicap

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Csaba improved his record over Calder Race Course’s main track to 9 for 12 on Saturday, when he drove to a 1 1/4-length win over Valid to defend his title in the Fred W. Hooper Handicap.

“He loves Calder, obviously,” winning trainer Phil Gleaves said.

The Hooper was one of three Grade 3, $100,000 handicaps on the card. Valiant Girl paid $87.60 after winning the My Charmer over Angelica Zapata, while Speaking of Which rolled down the middle of the course to take the Tropical Turf.

Csaba ($4.20) won the seventh stakes race of his career in the Hooper. He was content to stalk the pace in fourth as I’m Steppin’ It Up took the field through fractions of 23.25 seconds for the opening quarter and 47.65 for the half-mile. Valid, a 23-length winner in his last start, took over from there, but Csaba worked his way past the leaders and went on to cover the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:52.93.

“It was a grinding effort,” said Gleaves, who trains Csaba for Bruce Hollander and Cary Shapoff. “He wears the other horses down. He just keeps going and going.”

Luis Saez was aboard Csaba, a 4-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy who has won 11 of 25 starts and $551,480.

“He’s been a special horse for us,” Gleaves said. “I guess you’d have to say he’s the best dirt horse that Kitten’s Joy has had. Kitten’s Joy is known as a prolific sire, mainly as a turf sire. Csaba is his best dirt horse. We think there’s still room for improvement as he gets older.”

Plans for Csaba’s next start are to be determined, Gleaves said.

“We’ve got the Harlan’s Holiday over at Gulfstream, although that’s only two weeks away,” he said. “As usual, we’ll just see how he comes out of the race.”

The $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday, at 1 1/16 miles, is Dec. 22.

Csaba was bred by Ken and Sarah Ramsey. 

Trainer Graham Motion surrounded the competition in the My Charmer, running first and third with Valiant Girl and Strathnaver. Angelica Zapata, the highweight chasing her fourth straight win, was sandwiched in between the stablemates in second. She was beaten a half-length by Valiant Girl and finished a neck in front of Strathnaver.

Valiant Girl, a stakes winner coming off a seventh-place finish in the $125,000 Dowager at Keeneland, tracked the pace in third in the early stages of the My Charmer. Matthew Rispoli was aboard the filly, who in the drive fought for the win while covering 1 1/8 miles on good turf in 1:52.71.

Valiant Girl is 4-year-old daughter of Lemon Drop Kid and races for Antoinette Oppenheimer.

Rose to Gold, who was making her first start since finishing eighth in the Kentucky Oaks, set the pace to the stretch and finished fifth.

Speaking of Which angled out in the stretch and dug in for a one-length win over the favored Tetradrachm in the Tropical Turf. Speaking of Which, an Irish-bred son of Invincible Spirit, races for his breeder, Moyglare Stud Farm.

Speaking of Which ($11.20) was content to stalk the pace as Heiko took the field to the stretch. Speaking of Which kicked into high gear from there and went on to cover the 1 1/8 miles on good turf in 1:50.03. Joe Bravo was aboard for trainer Christophe Clement.