01/27/2006 12:00AM

Solid fields expected for Donn, Holy Bull

Andromeda's Hero is expected to run in a competitive field in Saturday's Donn Handicap.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - While this weekend's Sunshine Millions program might be more cash than substance, next Saturday's Spectacular Saturday II card will feature some of the most important races of the meet.

The Grade 1 Donn Handicap is the highlight of the card, which features six stakes. The card also includes the Grade 3 Holy Bull and Grade 2 Hutcheson for 3-year-olds, many of whom have aspirations for bigger and better things down the road, including the Grade 1 Florida Derby on April 1.

The Donn is the premier race for older horses at the meet and is expected to draw a full and well-matched field. Among those eyeing the 1 1/8-mile Donn are Andromeda's Hero, Brass Hat, Lord of the Game, Magna Graduate, Network, On Thin Ice, Suave, Super Frolic, and West Virginia. Trainer Nick Zito said he could also run either Pies Prospect or Seek Gold as an entry with Andromeda's Hero.

The Holy Bull is the first major test around two turns for 3-year-olds here this winter and is also expected to attract a solid field. Leading the expected field is Barbaro, an undefeated colt who will make his first start on dirt. His competition may include Big Lover, Doctor Decherd, Fagins Legacy, Flashy Bull, Itsallaboutthechase, My Golden Song, Rehoboth, and Sunriver. Zito said he could run one or more from a group that includes Hemmingway's Key, Great Point, or Little Cliff.

Trainer Eoin Harty reported Friday that Barbican, his top Florida based 3-year-old prospect, is "50-50" to run in the Holy Bull.

Barbican has won his last two starts, including an impressive victory over Ashado's full brother Sunriver in a first-level allowance race earlier this month.

"I'll be back in Florida on Monday and will make a final decision then," said Harty. "The race comes up a little quick for my liking, but there are plenty of other options around for 3-year-olds, including races at Tampa and Oaklawn."

Harty called Barbican "a pleasant surprise" to this point of his career.

"He was impressive winning his maiden race at Calder, but I really wasn't sure about what kind of competition he beat," said Harty. "I was cautiously optimistic going into the allowance race at Gulfstream but obviously very pleased with the way he ran that day."

The Hutcheson figures to attract eight to 10 starters. The spotlight will be on two-time Grade 1 winner First Samurai, who launches his 3-year-old campaign in the 7 1/2-furlong dash. Other potential starters include Almost Certain, Blazing Rate, Catcominatcha, City Attraction, Fabled, and Keyed Entry.

Harty said he was also thrilled over the performance of Dubai Escapade in a first-level allowance race here Wednesday, when she won by 7 1/2 lengths. A 4-year-old sister of Madcap Escapade, Dubai Escapade was making her first start in almost a year, and just the third of her career.

"She came here with a big reputation and trained extremely well at Palm Meadows, so her race didn't surprise me," said Harty. "She developed a virus after arriving from Dubai last April, and it was a matter of taking her time getting her healthy after that. I think she'll stretch out. She has the physique for it and doesn't appear to be one dimensional."

Wilkes sends out three straight winners

Ian Wilkes had hoped to get off to a good start in his first tenure as a licensed trainer in the U.S., but even he couldn't have expected the success he's had here thus far.

A 40-year-old native of Australia, Wilkes sent out three consecutive winners on Thursday's card, including Bucharest, who established a seven-furlong course record of 1:21.57 when he won a first-level allowance race. Wilkes also won the feature with Atlas Valley and a maiden turf race with Candy Ma'am.

"This is like a dream," Wilkes said. "Hopefully I won't wake up."

Wilkes had previously served as assistant to trainer Carl Nafzger for 13 years.

"Carl and I have been together a long time," said Wilkes. "But he wants to start scaling back. This is a great opportunity for me and also my wife, Tracey. It's always been a team effort with all of us, and it all works out when you have days like this."

Javier Castellano, who rode two of Wilkes's three winners, rode three winners on Thursday's card.

Some big hurdles for Calder simulcasts

Calder president Ken Dunn said he remains less than optimistic that simulcasting will resume at his track in the near future.

Earlier this week, Calder was forced to suspend its daily simulcasting program - which included the races from Gulfstream Park - after the Florida Supreme Court said it would hear the Florida Department of Business Regulations appeal of a lower court ruling that stayed a state law prohibiting the exchange of signals between the two tracks.

Dunn said the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering can grant Calder the right to resume simulcasting until the Supreme Court tries the case. But as of Friday, neither he nor Gulfstream Park president Scott Savin had gotten a response to that request.

"We have sent a letter to the division director with a copy to the governor asking them to do what is right and best for the Thoroughbred horse racing industry, but have received no response," said Dunn. "It seems to me it's the division's job to both regulate and help promote our industry, but in this case they are doing everything they can to damage it."

Dunn also said Calder has petitioned the division to conduct racing on a three-day-a-week basis from July 17 through Aug. 27 during the 2006 meet.