06/16/2004 11:00PM

Two stand to claim top spot


MIAMI - Earlier this season, the Calder-based 3-year-old colony was the strongest it had been in recent memory. But after injuries claimed the life of Wynn Dot Comma and sidelined Second of June and Silver Wagon indefinitely, the division was suddenly wide open and looking for a new leader.

Chances are that leader will emerge on Saturday after seven 3-year-olds go 1 1/16 miles in the $100,000 Unbridled Stakes. And chances are that leader will either be Caballero Negro or Capias, the two likely favorites among a field that also includes Bob's Proud Moment, Mister Fotis, Nightmare Affair, Charming Jim, and Hopefortheroses.

Caballero Negro has progressed rapidly through his allowance conditions since he won his maiden race impressively at Gulfstream Park on March 27. He followed that victory five weeks later with a 3 1/4-length triumph under entry-level allowance conditions. Most recently, he turned in the best performance of his career in his two-turn debut on May 29, rallying to a seven-length second-level allowance decision that earned him a Beyer Speed Figure of 95.

Caballero Negro's trainer, Mario Morales, said "He's coming into the race real well, and I don't think he's even reached his peak yet."

Eddie Castro, who took off Caballero Negro in his last start to be at Churchill Downs (where he won the Early Times Mint Julep with Stay Forever that afternoon), will be back aboard in the Unbridled.

Trainer Bill White will switch Capias back to the main track for the first time since he finished third behind Eddington under first-level allowance conditions at Gulfstream on Feb. 28. Like Caballero Negro, he has improved steadily over the past several months, winning an allowance race against older horses on May 2 before finishing third following a poor start as the 9-5 favorite in the Simply Majestic Stakes four weeks ago.

Capias, a son of Skip Trial, has turned in a pair of bullet five-furlong works over the main track since the Simply Majestic and has the running style to take advantage of what figures to be an honest pace in the Unbridled.

Nightmare Affair may have the best chance of upsetting the top two. A stretch-running son of Out of Place, he turned back to seven furlongs to beat older rivals under second-level optional claiming and allowance conditions earlier this month.