12/02/2005 1:00AM

Princess Rooney gets Grade 1 status

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MIAMI - The Princess Rooney Stakes became the first Grade 1 race in the history of Calder Race Course when the race was upgraded for 2006 by the American Graded

Stakes Committee, the committee announced on Friday.

"We're all very proud of this accomplishment," said Calder president Ken Dunn. "I believe that makes the Princess Rooney only the second Grade 1 filly and mare sprint race in the country, along with the Ballerina. I think the race deserves Grade 1 status and I'm pleased it has finally received proper recognition."

The $500,000 Princess Rooney is part of Calder's $1.9 million Summit of Speed program in the summer.

"It's hard to imagine when we started the Summit of Speed back in 2000 that within five years we would have a program in the middle of the summer in south Florida with one Grade 1 race, two Grade 2's, and a Grade 3," said Dunn, who credited vice president of marketing Mike Cronin and racing secretary Bob Umphrey and his staff for the success of the Summit of Speed. "Believe me, this type of thing doesn't just happen by mere luck."

Madcap Escapade won the 2005 Princess Rooney. California invader Ema Bovary defeated Bear Fan and Lady Tak in 2004. Gold Mover upset reigning division leader Xtra Heat to win the 2002 Princess Rooney and successfully defended her title in 2003. Hurricane Bertie (2000) and Dream Supreme (2001) are other winners of the race this decade.

Midtown Miss seeks repeat

Midtown Miss, who beat older horses for the first time last month in the Bold World Stakes, will attempt to duplicate the performance when she takes on eight other fillies and mares in Sunday's $40,000 Marina De Chavon Stakes.

Midtown Miss has been one of the most consistent sprinters of any age or sex on the grounds, hitting the board in all but one of her seven starts at distances up to 6 1/2 furlongs at Calder in 2005. In addition to the Bold World, the 3-year-old Midtown Miss also won the Harmony Lodge Stakes in mid-May and finished third in the Grade 3 Azalea Breeders' Cup.

Midtown Miss will have to be on top of her game if she's to beat the steadily improving 5-year-old Kuanyan. A daughter of Carson City, Kuanyan is coming off arguably the best performance of her career, a 3 1/2-length triumph in the seven-furlong Ms Brookski Stakes on Oct. 23.

Completing the lineup are Tigi, Mertie M., Think Fast, Miss Maronie, Smartlee Away, and Miracle Runner.

Early nominees for Florida Derby

Blazing Rate, In Summation, and Electrify, the three leading members of the local 2-year-old division, are among the 136 early bird nominees for the 2006 Florida Derby. The $1 million Florida Derby will be decided at 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream Park on April 1.

First Samurai, who finished third as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, topped the list of early bird nominees. Todd Pletcher led all trainers by nominating 17 2-year-olds to the race, including recent Grade 2 winner Bluegrass Cat.

Nick Zito, who sent out High Fly and Noble Causeway to a one-two finish in the 2005 Florida Derby, nominated only two horses, Giant Basil and Hesanoldsalt.

- Far West, a 2-year-old son of Way West, turned in one of the more impressive maiden wins of the Tropical meeting when he drew off to a 7 1/4-length victory over the well- backed first-time starter Classy Honoree in Friday's third race. Far West, who is trained by Kirk Ziadie for owner Richard Siemens, covered five furlongs in 58.49 seconds over a dry and cuppy racetrack.