06/23/2008 11:00PM

Purse cuts a concern for Summit of Speed


MIAMI - Calder's Summit of Speed has become one of the premier racing days on the national calendar. The question this year is whether the ongoing conflict between local horsemen and track owner Churchill Downs Inc., and the purse cuts that have resulted from that stalemate, will put a damper on this year's edition of the event, to be decided July 12.

Purses for the 2008 Summit have been cut an aggregate $300,000. The Princess Rooney and Smile were cut from $500,000 to $400,000, and the Carry Back and Azalea from $300,000 to $250,000. The Princess Rooney remains a Grade 1, the Smile and Carry Back are Grade 2, and the Azalea is a Grade 3. The Princess Rooney and Smile have been designated as Win and You're In races for the Breeders' Cup.

Calder racing secretary Mike Anifantis said he is hopeful the drop in purses will not keep the nation's premier sprinters from once again running in Calder's marquee event. The 2007 Summit lured such notables as Maryfield, who went on to win the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, Smokey Stover, Fabulous Strike, and Black Seventeen.

"I'm a little concerned because of the purse cuts, but I don't foresee a big problem," Anifantis said. "Especially since all four races have retained their graded status. And the money is still good. Even at their current levels, the purses for the four races are pretty nice paydays for sprinters."

Nominations don't close until Saturday, but Anifantis already has some big names in the book, with the Smile having the potential to come up the strongest of the afternoon's four graded stakes.

"We've already received nominations from Thor's Echo, Ravalo, Indian Chant, and Bonfante for the Smile," Anifantis said. "And from everything I hear, Benny the Bull is definitely coming for the race."

Benny the Bull is the leader of the nation's sprint division, having won the Dubai Golden Shaheen, Grade 2 True North Handicap, and the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Gulfstream Park this year.

Anifantis said he's received Princess Rooney nominations for Miraculous Miss and Miss Macy Sue, second and third in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Miraculous Miss finished a late-running fourth in last year's edition of the Rooney.

Anifantis said he also is hopeful that the death of Harry Aleo last weekend won't keep trainer Greg Gilchrist from sending two of the owner's horses here: the undefeated and untested 3-year-old filly Indyanne for the Azalea and Victorina for the Princess Rooney.

"The Summit of Speed is an event trainers put on their calendar well in advance, and it would really be discouraging if the purse cuts cause anybody to change their plans," Anifantis said.

Weights for the Princess Rooney and Smile will be released July 5.

Aguilar rising in jockey standings

Jockey Manny Aguilar is quietly having himself a big meet. The veteran rode four winners on Sunday's card to move into a tie for fourth in the standings with Ariel Smith with 27 victories apiece. Aguilar booted home his first two winners Sunday - Mr. Maestre and Up and Up - for trainer Walter Rosas-Canessa. He then completed the four bagger aboard Varitek for trainer Ronald Gaffney and Meredith in the finale for Sandy Cataldi.

Apprentice Paco Lopez extended his lead atop the rider standings to six victories last weekend while his chief rival, Manny Cruz, was sidelined due to a three-day riding suspension. However, that advantage does not figure to last very long. Cruz will return to action beginning Thursday, while Lopez will begin serving a series of riding suspensions that will keep him out of action through July 10.

* Art Moderne, who has not started since winning the Franklin Stakes on turf at Kentucky Downs in September, looked sharp breezing a half-mile in 47.09 seconds and galloping out five-eighths in 59.87 for trainer Marty Wolfson on Tuesday. The Franklin was Art Moderne's only start in 2007.