08/08/2003 11:00PM

Special card to showcase 2-year-olds


MIAMI - This track has had a longstanding reputation as a haven for 2-year-old racing. Juvenile races dominate many of the cards here during the second half of the season, while the track's marquee event, the Festival of the Sun, is built around the rich finales of the Florida Stallion Stakes series.

On Aug. 30, Calder will celebrate its 2-year-old program with a special card made up exclusively of juvenile races. The promotion will feature the middle legs of the Florida Stallion series, the $125,000 Affirmed and Susan's Girl stakes, as well as sets of overnight stakes for colts and fillies on the main track and turf, both sprinting and around two turns.

In addition, a special wager called the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation 2-year-old Stakes Pick-3 will be offered, coupling a division of the Stallion Stakes with the Bassinet Stakes from River Downs and the Hopeful from Saratoga. All racetrack commissions from the wager will be donated to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

"This was Bobby Umphrey's idea," said Calder president Ken Dunn. "He already figured to have at least six 2-year-old races on the Aug. 30 card, so he thought it might be fun to have an all-2-year-old program. Becoming part of a national bet-three puts us in partnership with races of notoriety like the Hopeful and Bassinet while the whole day gives us another opportunity to call attention to our racing, particularly the 2-year-old product, at a time of year we normally would not get that much exposure."

Dunn also met with the jockey colony on Friday in the aftermath of the riders' decision to cancel Tuesday's program after the fifth race because of a severe electrical storm that passed over the area.

"I was very disappointed the riders didn't give us an opportunity to respond to their concerns," Dunn said. "The problem was primarily one of a communications gap between jockeys and management. I've been here 13 years and this is the first time we've lost a race in the middle of a card."

Former jockey and now National Jockeys Guild Regional Representative Larry Saumell was also in town this weekend to discuss the situation with the riders and management.

"The riders were concerned about their safety due to the lightning," said Saumell. "This is a very young riding colony; most of these jockeys have never been in a position to cancel racing before and did not know the proper procedures to follow. So I'm here to explain those procedures and help open up a better line of communications in the future."

Saumell, who rode at Calder for many years, readily remembers the last time racing was canceled here in the middle of a card.

"It was the day Nick Navarro was struck and killed by lightning," Saumell said. The incident happened in 1983. "I rode in that race and wasn't more than a few feet from him when he got hit."