08/17/2009 11:00PM

Strong support gathered for Showcase Day


MIAMI - Just about any 2-year-old on the Calder grounds who has shown a hint of ability this summer appears to be headed for one of the six stakes on the rich Juvenile Showcase card on Aug. 29.

A total of $900,000 in prize money is up for grabs in those six stakes, headed by the $150,000 Affirmed and $150,000 Susan's Girl, the middle legs of the Florida Stallion Series. Those not eligible for the Stallion Stakes can still find ample opportunity to earn some serious swag as well as stakes credentials on Juvenile Showcase Day, either sprinting on the grass in the $100,000 Fasig Tipton Turf Dash and Catcharisingstar stakes, or around two turns in the $100,000 Seacliff and Lindsay Frolic stakes at a mile.

The Turf Dash and its filly counterpart, the Catcharisingstar, drew 50 nominations between them, while the Seacliff and Lindsay Frolic attracted a combined total of 36 nominees. Many horses were nominated in multiple categories, and full fields should abound in the supporting races on the Juvenile Showcase program.

That will not likely be the case in the two Stallion Series events, if the opening round of the series is any indication. Jackson Bend defeated only seven rivals in the Dr. Fager division, while Sweetlalabye faced just six foes in upsetting the Desert Vixen. Both are expected to return for the seven-furlong Affirmed and Susan's Girl, respectively, on Juvenile Showcase Day.

The most notable name on the nomination lists for the four undercard events is Strike the Tiger, who became the first American-trained horse to win at Royal Ascot, when he upset the Windsor Castle Stakes for trainer Wesley Ward on June 16. An undefeated son of Tiger Ridge, Strike the Tiger is one of five 2-year-olds Ward has nominated to the Turf Dash, along with Liquid Fire, Convoy Ahead, and the fillies Aegean and Girl Bar. Both Aegean and Girl Bar have also been nominated to the Catcharisingstar.

"It's not likely I'll run Strike the Tiger, because he's not a Florida-bred, so he'd only compete for half the purse," said Ward, referring to the fact that all four of the supporting stakes on the card are subsidized by the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association. "He'll probably go next in the Cradle Stakes at River Downs. I might send either Convoy Ahead or Liquid Fire for the colt race, but they are both at Saratoga right now, and I'm having a hell of a time making travel arrangements to get them down there."

Ward said he is looking forward to bringing Girl Bar back in the Catcharisingstar. Girl Bar has not started since winning her career debut going a quarter-mile at Gulfstream Park on April 1. She worked three furlongs over a good turf course here Monday in 36.23 seconds.

"I always felt she was my most talented 2-year-old, but she developed shins after her first start," said Ward. "She's exceptionally well bred for turf, being by Atticus out of an In Excess mare, but might have some distance limitations, which is why a race like this is perfect for her."

Girl Bar is one of just five horses Ward has on the grounds at Calder. He has also got 30 at Saratoga and another 16 stabled at Monmouth Park for the summer.

"I'd love to have a bigger presence at Calder, because my family is there and I spend half my time in the area," said Ward. "But I'm having trouble with customers wanting to race there because of the purses."

Surprise turf works

Girl Bar was one of four Catcharisingstar nominees given permission to work over the turf here Monday morning. The fact the course was open at all came as somewhat of a surprise since there was no grass racing here Saturday or Sunday because of excessive rain.

The dogs, or protective cones, were laid out well past the middle of the course to protect the still somewhat soggy strip for Monday's works. That did not matter to the rider of Winey Taylor, who worked a half-mile down near the inner hedge in a blistering 45.85 seconds before galloping out five-eighths in 59.45 around the clubhouse turn.

Winey Taylor, a daughter of Indian Ocean trained by Jorge Navarro, is undefeated in two starts. She captured her debut under a $32,000 claiming price on July 17 before returning two weeks later to win a $32,000 starter allowance by a rapidly diminishing head.

Other turf workers on Monday included Keilana (four furlongs in 51.80 seconds) and Miss Delite (four furlongs in 50).

Pious Ashley prepping in feature

Pious Ashley, fourth in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap on July 11, will be favored to defeat five rivals including her uncoupled stablemate Rate of Exchange in Thursday's $34,000 allowance feature.

Pious Ashley was beaten eight lengths by Game Face in the Princess Rooney, but finished less than two lengths behind the runner-up, Keep the Peace. Pious Ashley had won her previous two starts, including Lone Star's Valid Expectations Stakes.

"I'm using this race as a prep for Pious Ashley for the Endine at Delaware Park," said trainer Marty Wolfson. "I'm planning to run both fillies on Thursday, although I'd prefer five furlongs instead of six for Rate of Exchange."

Completing the field are R Brown Sugar, whose three-race win streak was snapped when she finished fourth following an unlucky start in the Grade 3 Azalea; her stablemate Star Operator; stakes winner Bereba; and the multiple-stakes-placed Trippi's Greatstar.