11/04/2005 12:00AM

Track is back to racing, but far from back to normal after storm


MIAMI - Calder's racing schedule returned to normal on Thursday for the first time since the area was devastated by Hurricane Wilma on Oct. 24, but the track itself is still not conducting business "under any semblance of normality," according to Calder president Ken Dunn.

"It's a credit to the department heads and the local horsemen that we are back on schedule, but it's going to be a long time before we get back to life around here pre-Wilma," Dunn said Friday.

Calder lost four full racing programs before reopening with a pair of five-race, grass-only cards last Sunday and Monday. The first full program coincided with the reopening of the main track on Thursday.

"You can look at the pictures of the devastation in other areas hit by major hurricanes, including New Orleans, and understand it a little bit," said Dunn. "But it's not until you're at a site that gets hit like we did that you fully understand the bad things Mother Nature can do."

Dunn said he will know more on Monday, after receiving a report from structural engineers, on the time frame for repairing damage to the racetrack's grounds and buildings, including the more than 50 barns that lost all or parts of their roofs during the storm. Calder has already built a 100-stall temporary barn adjacent to the receiving barn to help in the reconstruction phase of the project.

"The opening of the temporary barn means there shouldn't be any horse on the grounds without a roof over its head," said Dunn. "We'll also need a place to transfer 40 horses at a time to repair the individual barns when the time comes."

The current Tropical at Calder meet runs through Jan. 2. The track is also home during the winter to a pair of major horse sales that require 300-350 stalls for sales horses.

"We won't know the exact time frame until next week, but despite the enormity of the project, I am fully confident we'll be 100 percent back to normal before the opening of the 2006 meet next April," said Dunn.

Chavez back at Calder after delay

Veteran rider Jorge Chavez's return to south Florida was delayed briefly by Hurricane Wilma, but the former Calder and Tropical at Calder riding champion wasted little time making his presence felt. Chavez posted three victories this week, including one aboard the 11-1 outsider Sanadel in Friday's fifth race.

Chavez, who was scheduled to go back up north one more time to ride Asti for trainer Allen Jerkens in Saturday's Turnback the Alarm Handicap at Aqueduct, has jockey agent Kevin Meyocks handling his engagements in south Florida. Meyocks is also looking forward to the imminent arrival of another New Yorker, Chantal Sutherland, who is expected to begin riding at Calder sometime around the middle of the month.

"Chantal hasn't given me an exact date for her arrival, but it should be around the 17th or 18th," said Meyocks. "That works out well because Richard Bracho, who I've handled here since the spring, is planning on moving his tack to Turfway Park on the 14th or 15th."

Running Lass breezes

Running Lass, whose quest to sweep the Florida Stallion Stakes came to a crashing end in the My Dear Girl Stakes, breezed five furlongs in 1:01 here Friday. Running Lass, winner of the Desert Vixen and Susan's Girl Stakes, is among the nominees for next Saturday's $150,000 Joe O'Farrell Juvenile Fillies.

Rehoboth, a tiring fourth when stretching out around two turns for the first time in the Foolish Pleasure Breeders' Cup, also worked five furlongs in 1:01 here Friday. Rehoboth and his more accomplished stablemate In Summation are two of only 10 2-year-olds nominated for next week's $150,000 Jack Price Juvenile.

The Joe O'Farrell and Jack Price are two of the eight stakes scheduled for the fourth annual Florida Million Day card here on Nov. 12.