07/06/2004 11:00PM

Return begins humbly for Caller One


MIAMI - The sport of racing is full of surprises. Not only is Caller One making a return to the races after suffering what was thought to be a career-ending injury two years ago, but he will launch his comeback in a two-furlong race, the $50,000 Rocket Man Stakes Saturday at Calder.

The Rocket Man is one of six stakes on the Summit of Speed card, which is topped by the Grade 2, $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap for males and the Grade 2, $500,000 Princess Rooney Handicap for fillies and mares.

Caller One, now 7, has not started since finishing last in the Singapore Airlines Sprint on May 11, 2002. One of the premier sprinters in the world at the time, Caller One was reportedly retired after suffering a fractured sesamoid at Belmont Park during his final workout for the 2002 Smile Sprint Handicap.

Caller One, a gelding, went to the sidelines with earnings of nearly $3.2 million, the majority of which came via his back-to-back victories in the 2001 and 2002 Golden Shaheen Stakes on the Dubai World Cup undercard. Caller One also finished fourth after setting the pace in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Sprint and third behind Squirtle Squirt in the 2001 Breeders' Cup. He won his only previous start at Calder, the Carry Back Stakes, on the inaugural Summit of Speed program in 2000, when he was a 3-year-old.

Caller One races for the partnership of Carolyn Chapman and Theresa McArthur and was previously trained by James Chapman Jr., son of Carolyn. He will be saddled for the first time Saturday by trainer Laura Posada. Caller One has been in training at the Chapmans' Oxford Farm in Oxford, Fla., under the care of James Chapman Sr., who said he has known Posada, a former jockey, since 1994.

"A lot of different vets gave us a lot of different opinions on his prognosis after his injury two years ago," said the elder Chapman. "We thought about him possibly coming back after it happened, but then we gave him a full year before we even thought of it again. We just kind of put him away and took care of him. He's been in training since the first of the year. It would have been nice to have him ready for the Smile. But the idea is not to push him and let him tell us where he's at."

Caller One worked an easy three furlongs in 37.60 seconds at Calder last Saturday with Posada aboard.

"Jim sent me a couple of horses at the beginning of last month and mentioned at the time he had Caller One back in training," Posada said. "Then about two weeks ago he called me and said he was putting Caller One on a van and sending him down for the Rocket Man. I've gotten on him myself every morning, and right now he's really sound and hitting the ground great. I didn't want to do too much with him when he worked the other day, but I could tell there is a ton of horse there."

Both Chapman and Posada agree that Caller One is fit enough to go about a half-mile, hence the decision to bring him back Saturday in the Rocket Man rather than the six-furlong Smile or even the five-furlong Calder Turf Sprint.

"It's not the race we'd normally pick, but we're still a ways off," said Chapman. "He gained a lot of weight when he was off and we haven't pushed him. We don't want to hook the heavy heads going three-quarters of a mile right now."

Chapman said he is confident Caller One will give a good account of himself in the Rocket Man.

"I'm looking for him to do well; there's no reason not to be optimistic," said Chapman. "I tell you what I'm most excited about, though - how well he's doing. There hasn't been a hiccup since he's started back. That's what's neat. How he's held up. I think he actually goes as well or better now than before the injury."