03/02/2007 12:00AM

Under-tack showings spark sale optimism


Fasig-Tipton will conduct its annual selected 2-year-olds in training sale on Tuesday at Calder Race Course starting at 11 a.m. A Fasig-Tipton spokesman, Terence R.B. Collier, expects about 250 horses to go through the sales ring. There are 31 Florida-breds cataloged for this sale.

The second of two under-tack shows is to be held Sunday at Calder. Collier was very pleased with the previous Sunday's showing.

"It's always a good sign when the horses with strong commercial appeal are the ones who show best under tack," he said. "And we had a number of those this past week."

When asked for other signs that the buyers will be out in full force, Collier said there are ordinarily two sorts of buyers. One is the agents who watch the 2-year-olds under tack, then go to the barns and check them out. Many started this past Sunday, and did not, according to Collier, complete their business until midweek.

"Then we get the late arrivals, such as Japanese buyers," said Collier. "They will watch the second under-tack show, look at the videos of the first under-tack show, and then check out the individuals that interest them."

The subject of artificial racing surfaces came up in the context of under-tack shows given that, except for Keeneland, under-tack shows in the East are conducted over conventional surfaces. But that is changing, with Keeneland, Turfway, Woodbine, and Hollywood Park having installed synthetic surfaces, and Del Mar, Santa Anita, and other tracks to follow. Collier summed up his thoughts on artificial surfaces with a firm endorsement, but he did caution that the change might take some getting used to. Most horses, he said, should have no trouble making the transition, and as evidence he pointed to how horses seem to handle different kinds of conventional surfaces.

"We have 2-year-olds coming from the deeper training tracks of Ocala, and most do not seem to have any problems adjusting to the faster footing of Calder Race Course," he said.

As with most selected 2-year-old sales nowadays, the majority of the juveniles being offered at Tuesday's auction were pinhooked. The average pinhook price for this sale is approximately $150,000. The highest-priced pinhook in the sale is the $1omillion paid last September at Keeneland for a colt by Storm Cat out of Moon Safari, by Mr. Prospector. Consigned by Hoby and Layna Kight, agent, the 2-year-old is the second foal of a group-stakes-placed full sister to the Grade 1 stakes winner Scan, from the family of classic winner and sire Caerleon.

Little Everglades time again

Next Sunday, the Little Everglades Steeplechase Foundation will hold its annual one-day festival, which includes four hurdle events and two flat races. Gates will open at 9 a.m. Little Everglades has a 1 1/2-mile regulation turf course and is located in Dade City, Fla., a half-hour drive northeast from Tampa Bay Downs.

The day's fare includes all sorts of entertainment, from trotting ponies to Jack Russell terrier races. The first of the hurdle events has a 1 p.m. post time. Post time for the featured $35,000 Founder's Cup Hurdle is at 2:30.

There is a $10,000 allowance race for Florida-breds going 1 1/4 miles on the flat, with a 3:40 post time. Those with candidates for the day's races can go online to www.littleevergladessteeplechase.org for information.

A word of caution for those planning to attend this one-day festival: Be prepared for some traffic jams. It's estimated that in excess of 25,000 people attended last year's festivities. The festival is a fun day for children, as well. Thousands of children were in attendance in 2006, with many, no doubt, experiencing their first exposure to horse racing.

Little Everglades Steeplechase is a philanthropic organization with proceeds earmarked for a variety of Florida charities. General admission to the festival is $20, with children under 6 admitted free. Admission by the carload is $60. The festival will go on rain or shine.