10/10/2006 11:00PM

Stallion races still thrill Plesa


MIAMI - The Florida Stallion Stakes will conclude its 25th birthday celebration on Saturday with the running of the $400,000 In Reality and $400,000 My Dear Girl stakes.

The Stallion series was first conceived in 1979 by then-Calder president and general manager Kenny Noe Jr., along with prominent owner-breeder Dan Lasater. It had its first running in 1982 and ultimately emerged as a major event on the south Florida racing calendar after becoming the cornerstone of Calder's Festival of the Sun program in 1992.

Graduates of the Stallion Stakes include four Eclipse Award winners: Smile, the 1986 Sprint champion; Brave Raj, the 1986 Juvenile Filly champion; Not Surprising, the 1995 Sprint champion; and Holy Bull, the 1994 3-year-old champion and Horse of the Year.

While there has been a dearth of nationally prominent horses to emerge from the series in recent years, Stallion series wins are still coveted by locally based horsemen, perhaps none more so than Eddie Plesa Jr.

Plesa has won more Stallion Stakes races, 10, than any trainer other than Frank Gomez, who has won 14. Plesa said winning a Stallion race is still as important to him today as it was when he notched his first series victory with My Nichole in 1986.

"It's important to me because it's important for my owners," said Plesa, who will send out three fillies, including the favorite, Adrhythm, in the My Dear Girl and likely second choice Villainage in the In Reality. "Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be quite as important to other trainers and owners as it used to be, which might be evidenced by the fact that I have three of the seven starters in the My Dear Girl."

Plesa said the changing face of the local racing economy has as much to do with the drop-off in Stallion Stakes participation as anything else.

"Economically, we're just not as strong here as we were years ago, and as a result I don't think local owners and trainers are participating at the sales and spending the kind of money like they used to when it comes to buying Stallion Stakes horses," said Plesa. "Even the big day itself isn't what it used to be. I remember for years hearing the ads for all the big-name riders and horses who came down for the Festival of the Sun and that just isn't the case any more."

The only New York-based jockey scheduled to ride in the Stallion Stakes here Saturday is Jose Santos, who is listed aboard Silkily for trainer Angel Salinas in the My Dear Girl.

Miesque's Approval still headed to BC Mile

Trainer Marty Wolfson, who will start three horses on Saturday's program but none in the two Stallion Stakes finales, said he's still pointing Miesque's Approval to the Breeders' Cup Mile despite his fourth-place finish in last Saturday's Shadwell Mile at Keeneland.

"The pace really hurt him at Keeneland," said Wolfson. "I never anticipated they'd go as slow as 1:11 and change for the first six furlongs. In addition he had a rough time just getting to Kentucky because of problems with two of the aircraft. He left here at 6:30 a.m. and didn't arrive at Keeneland until midnight. I could have vanned him up there quicker, and I think the ordeal took a little something out of him."

Solid group of turf sprinters

A strong field of eight, led by Steel the Glory, Love My Mountain, and Lox and Kippers drew into the main body of Friday's $28,000 co-feature at five furlongs on the grass.

Steel the Glory is coming off an easy 3 1/2-length first-level allowance win on dirt but also proved his mettle sprinting on the turf by winning his maiden with ease going five furlongs on the grass here in May.

Love My Mountain, 5 for 11 over the local course, hopefully will be a little luckier than he was last Saturday when he went to his knees and was pulled up at the start of the Hooting Star overnight stakes.

Lox and Kippers has registered a win and two seconds in his last three starts, and runs for the first time Friday for owner-trainer Brian Prichard, who claimed the turf sprint specialist for $25,000 on Sept. 25.

* Nightmare Affair, whose connections plan to supplement him for $180,000 to the Breeders' Cup Sprint, blew out three furlongs in 37.20 seconds here Wednesday.