12/23/2008 1:00AM

Rail draw should aid Best Tigress


MIAMI - If the 2008 racing season had been a normal one at Calder, Saturday's card would have been one of the best of the year, featuring the four-stakes Grand Slam III package. Scheduled to be run Saturday were the Grade 3 Stage Door Betty Handicap, Grade 3 Frances Genter Stakes, the Chaposa Springs Handicap, and Pete Axthelm Stakes.

But this has been anything but a normal year at Calder. A disagreement with the track's parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., led local horsemen to block the distribution of the Calder signal to account-wagering companies since the start of the meet on April 26. (An agreement was reached with two account-wagering companies on Monday.) That, along with the sagging economy, created a huge drop in business, which led to the cancellation of all four Grand Slam stakes.

As a result, instead of four stakes races, Saturday's 12-race program is headed by three optional claiming events, the best of which is a second-level allowance with a $25,000 claiming option for fillies and mares.

Best Tigress brings a modest two-race win streak into the event and will likely be favored for Eddie Plesa Jr., who sits atop the trainer standings with just one week left in the Tropical session. Best Tigress, a 3-year-old daughter of former Plesa trainee Best of the Rest, began her streak at the Meadowlands, where she rallied to a one-length victory in a mid-priced conditioned claimer on Nov. 5. She then returned to Calder, stretched out around two turns for the first time on dirt, and was equally impressive rallying to a two-length entry-level allowance tally 25 days later.

Best Tigress should trip out nicely, having drawn the advantageous inside post with a short run to the first turn in mile races at Calder. She figures to chase the likely pace of another New Jersey invader, Honorable Truth, who registered a pair of wire-to-wire victories this summer at Monmouth Park.

Another improving 3-year-old, Exclusive Woman, also demands respect in her present form. The daughter of Cat Thief earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 84 in her most recent start, when second behind the red-hot Successful Sarah under similar conditions 17 days earlier. Exclusive Woman also was second in the Sunny Issues Stakes earlier in the Tropical meeting.

Zoi Zoi makes her debut for Pletcher

Saturday's program also offers a couple of intriguing maiden special weight dashes for 2-year-olds, which go as the third and ninth races on the card.

The third race is for juvenile fillies and is topped by trainer Todd Pletcher's Zoi Zoi who was purchased for $575,000 by owner Ahmed Zayat at the February sales. Zoi Zoi is by Seeking the Gold and a half-sister to three stakes winners.

The open division drew a full field of 2-year-old colts and geldings, including first-time starters from the barns of trainers Michael Matz, Angel Penna Jr., Christophe Clement, George Weaver, and Bill Mott.