05/12/2004 12:00AM

Tour of the Cat a winner at home


MIAMI - Tour of the Cat made a triumphant return home on Tuesday with a half-length victory over Bog Hunter in a $35,000 optional claiming and allowance dash.

Tour of the Cat was making his first start since finishing eighth in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen Stakes on March 27 and his first since being turned over to trainer Manuel Wayar shortly after his return from Dubai.

Tour of the Cat, a three-time graded stakes winner in 2003, broke alertly under jockey Gary Boulanger to set the pace, turned back an early challenge from Royal Lad, then withstood a surge from Bog Hunter in the final furlong. Tour of the Cat, a 6-year-old son of Tour d'Or, went off as the even-money favorite in a field of six older horses.

Wayar said his first major objective for Tour of the Cat is the 1 1/16-mile Memorial Day Handicap on May 31.

Weigelia easing Azpurua's loss

Trainer Manny Azpurua lost his big horse, last year's local juvenile star Sir Oscar, the day after the horse suffered his first loss in seven starts, in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes. But it appears Azpurua has found an ample replacement in Weigelia, a late-developing 3-year-old who scored his second consecutive stakes triumph with a victory over Classy Migration in Sunday's Western Borders Stakes.

Just days before Sir Oscar was transferred from Azpurua to trainer Marty Wolfson, Weigelia served notice he could be a force in the 3-year-old sprint division, when finishing second to the then-undefeated Frisky Spider in a second-level allowance race at Gulfstream Park. A slow start cost Weigelia any chance in his stakes debut in the Hutcheson, but he has roared back with wins in Tampa Bay Downs's Sophomore Stakes and the Western Borders.

Those two victories put Weigelia among the top local candidates for the Grade 3, $300,000 Carry Back Stakes here on July 12.

Saltzman, voice of Calder, to retire

Phil Saltzman, the voice of Calder since 1984, will retire at the end of the 2004-2005 meeting. The announcement was made jointly by Saltzman and Calder president Ken Dunn over the weekend.

"Phil has always brought a distinct voice to Calder," said Dunn. "When hearing his calls, fans from all over the country know instantly they are listening to one of our races."

Saltzman, a 67-year-old native of Brooklyn, N.Y., is best known for his patented phrase, "And they're not gonna get him today."

"Calder runs through my veins," said Saltzman. "But at the end of this year I will have called an estimated 40,000 races in my career. It's a very stressful occupation, and I feel that I've reached the point that it's time to hang up the microphone."

Bobby Neuman, currently Calder's television paddock analyst and replay show host, will take over as track announcer next season.

Card room opens

Calder's new card room opened for business on Monday. Located on the second floor of the grandstand, the room has 12 tables, offering Texas hold 'em, seven-card stud, and Omaha high/low. The room will be open on live racing days, beginning at noon.

"I was very pleased at the turnout on opening day, especially for a Monday," Dunn said.

The card room had originally been scheduled to open when the meet began on April 26.