07/08/2003 11:00PM

Summit of Speed a popular ticket


MIAMI - When racing secretary Bob Umphrey began barnstorming the major racing centers earlier this year looking to drum up support for Calder's Summit of Speed, he was elated with the reception he received. But even Umphrey could not have foreseen the response he would ultimately receive when the six stakes races worth $1.75 million were drawn Wednesday for Saturday's 13-race card.

A total of 70 horses, including 13 each in the $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap, $300,000 Azalea Breeders' Cup Stakes, and $100,000 Calder Turf Sprint Handicap, were entered for the six stakes races. More than 30 horses will be shipping to south Florida from across the country to participate in the Summit of Speed, an event that in three short years has grown into one of the more popular days on the summer racing calendar.

An increase in the purses this year for each of the four graded stakes on the card, coupled with the appearance last year of such high-profile stars as Eclipse Award winners Orientate and Xtra Heat, has helped draw added attention to the Summit of Speed.

"We raised the bar last year getting Orientate and Xtra Heat to come in for these races," Umphrey said. "And while we might not have a marquee name of their caliber this year, overall from top to bottom this is definitely the finest renewal yet."

Echo Eddie, who finished second to Orientate in the 2002 Smile, is among the 13 horses entered for this year's Smile, a Grade 3 sprint. The Scott Lake-trained pair of Shake You Down and My Cousin Matt, both ranked near the top of the national sprint division, head a Smile lineup that also includes invaders Here's Zealous, Bills Paid, and Private Horde. Shake You Down, the 119-pound highweight and likely favorite, did not fare well at the post position draw and will break from post 13 under regular rider Mike Luzzi.

The local contingent is led by Built Up and Tour of the Cat, and also includes Lord Abounding, Juggernaut, Swift Replica, Hear No Evil, and the undefeated Demeteor.

Gold Mover, who last year upset Xtra Heat to win the Grade 2 Princess Rooney Handicap, will be back to defend her Princess Rooney title for trainer Mark Hennig. She will be ridden by Jerry Bailey from post 3. Also in the field are Harmony Lodge, Shawklit Mint, Slews Final Answer, Miss Lodi, For Rubies, and locals Chispiski and Vision in Flight.

The Grade 3 Azalea Breeders' Cup drew a surprisingly large field considering the presence of the multiple graded sprint winner Buffythecenterfold, who flies in from California for trainer Mel Stute. Buffythecenterfold will break from post 6.

The last time the West Coast-based Stute sent a young filly to Calder was in 1986 when Brave Raj came to town and won the Susan's Girl and My Dear Girl Divisions of the Florida Stallion Stakes. She went on to capture the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies to clinch her Eclipse Award later that fall.

Also shipping in for the six-furlong Azalea are Ebony Breeze, Littlemiss Sparkle, Fabulous Brush, Master Prospect, and Angela's Love.

The home forces are strong for the Azalea and will be led by Storm Flag, Crafty Brat, and Crimson and Roses.

The Grade 3, $300,000 Carry Back lured a field of 11 that includes New York invaders Halo Homewrecker and Savoy Special; Cajun Beat and Coach Jimi Lee from the Midwest; and Californians King Robyn and Roll Hennessy Roll.

Valid Video, Lawbook, Awesome of Course, Sweet Devil, and Super Fuse round out the evenly matched lineup.

Testify, a five-furlong grass specialist, will carry high weight of 121 pounds and was one of the 13 horses entered for the $100,000 Calder Turf Sprint Handicap. California invader Nuclear Debate, third in the Grade 1 Atto Mile last year, is among the other key contenders in a field that also includes the locally based fillies Petrina Above and My Girl Lisa.

Baby Shark, who dominated the two-furlong Rocket Man last summer, will be back to defend his title against 11 other speedy rivals.

Saturday's card will also have a special pick five with a guaranteed $500,000 pool. It comprises the Turf Sprint, Azalea, Carry Back, Princess Rooney, and Smile.