09/24/2010 2:16PM

Rain continues to vex Calder grass opportunities


MIAMI – The Calder grass course might be green from all the rain that has soaked the south Florida area this summer, but it has certainly not been greener for local trainers who have been frustrated trying to get their horses in on the turf here for much of the meet, especially during the past several weeks.

The turf course was closed again Friday, the ninth time over the last 11 racing days dating back to Sept. 4 that turf racing has been canceled completely because of bad weather. One turf race was decided last Friday before more rain midway through the program forced the afternoon’s final two scheduled infield events to be moved to the main track.

One trainer who has run afoul of the weather on numerous occasions this summer is Bill Kaplan, whose Green Lite Special won his first two grass starts in May. Unfortunately, Kaplan has been unable to get him back on the turf ever since, each of the 3-year-old gelding’s last four races having been switched to the main track because of the wet condition of the turf. Green Lite Special was entered in Saturday’s Needles Stakes scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the grass, but which appeared destined to also come off the turf as a result of weeklong rains.

“Naturally it’s a frustrating situation, but you just come to expect that here in south Florida, when any day you can come off the grass,” said Kaplan. “It’s particularly hard if you have a horse who only likes the turf. Then you’re really at the mercy of the weather. The good thing about Green Lite Special is that he’s become a better horse on dirt since he won those two turf races this spring. He couldn’t win for $12,500 on the main track when he started out, although he’s still much stronger on the grass.”

Kaplan has also faced a similar situation a couple of times this summer with his top 3-year-old filly Musical Romance, who is a stakes winner on grass but finished far back in two consecutive starts when her races were switched to the main track. She faced a similar situation as her stablemate on Saturday when she was entered in the Judy’s Red Shoes on turf.

“One thing about me, I don’t scratch too often when my races are taken off the grass,” said Kaplan. “First of all, a horse gets a special date if they stay in, which helps you get into future turf races a lot easier. It can be real tough to get a horse into some of these grass races here during the summer, especially the lower-level ones. Secondly, just about everyone is in the same boat when it happens. The races usually become easier than a normal dirt race at the same level.”

Calder’s racing secretary, Mike Anifantis, carded only one race on the turf for Sunday, the fifth, for lower-level conditioned claimers, although chances are it will end up being moved to the main track as well. Sunday’s feature is a first-level optional claimer for fillies and mares with Sweetdreaminlacey the one to catch.