08/06/2004 11:00PM

Stallion Stakes series begins Saturday

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Jim Lisa
Caught with four feet off the ground, Caballero Negro appears to float to the finish line in winning the $40,000 Silver Season overnight stakes at Calder on Saturday. Manoel Cruz was the winning jockey for trainer Mario Morales.

MIAMI - Calder's annual rite of summer, the Florida Stallion Stakes, begins this week with the six-furlong Dr. Fager Stakes and its filly counterpart, the Desert Vixen. The series continues three weeks later with the seven-furlong Affirmed and Susan's Girl divisions. After an unprecedented seven-week sabbatical, the series will conclude Oct. 23 with the $400,000 In Reality and My Dear Girl Stakes, both of which will be decided at 1 1/16 miles.

The In Reality and My Dear Girl highlight the rich Festival of the Sun program, which has traditionally been the cornerstone of the six-month Calder meeting. But the Summit of Speed's emergence as one of the premier racing days on the national scene has forced the Festival to take a back seat on the Calder stakes schedule.

"On a national level, the Summit of Speed has become an important event, but the culmination of the Stallion Stakes and the Festival of the Sun, in my opinion, still remains locally the main event of our summer meeting," said racing secretary Bob Umphrey. "We moved the Festival back a week on the schedule this year because both the California Cup and Maryland Million were moved up to the same date we normally run the Festival of the Sun, and we wanted to find a day where we would not be in competition with two other major racing events around the country."

This year's Stallion Stakes will have to be something special to duplicate the excitement of the 2003 series, in which Sir Oscar and French Village entered the Festival of the Sun with a chance to sweep their respective divisions. Sir Oscar completed the hat trick with a victory in the In Reality, whereas French Village turned in a disappointing performance, finishing far behind her former stablemate Chatter Chatter, who made a runaway of the My Dear Girl.

Unfortunately, neither of the local leaders of their respective divisions, Devils Disciple and Punch Appeal, are eligible for the Stallion Stakes. This leaves both the Dr. Fager and the Desert Vixen wide-open affairs.

Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr., who has already run six Stallion Stakes races, will have the upper hand in the Dr. Fager when he sends out likely favorite B B Best and his uncoupled stablemate Favre. B B Best was an easy winner of his first two career starts before finishing fourth behind Devils Disciple as the 3-10 favorite in the Criterium Stakes.

Favre, an easy maiden winner in his last start, worked five furlongs in 1:02.60 seconds here Saturday.

Caballero Negro holds on

Caballero Negro turned back a bid from Nightmare Affair through early stretch, then edged off to a popular 1 3/4-length victory in the $40,000 Silver Season Stakes on Saturday. Frolic for Joy was a distant third.

Caballero Negro ($3.80), racing without blinkers for the first time since launching his career here in December, recovered after bobbling leaving the gate, slipping through along the rail while rallying on the turn under jockey Manoel Cruz. Caballero Negro gained the lead at the top of the stretch, then withstood a strong challenge from Nightmare Affair, who had rallied wide around the turn.

Caballero Negro is trained by Mario Morales for the Veranda Farm Inc. He covered seven furlongs in 1:25.07 over a fast track while posting his fourth victory in nine career starts.