12/17/2006 12:00AM

Winnners capitalize on sloppy main track


MIAMI - Trainer Todd Pletcher didn't start walking to the winner's circle after the half-mile split was posted for Saturday's $200,000 at Calder. But he could have.

For all intents and purposes the La Prevoyante, which was switched from the turf to a sloppy main track because of two days of steady rain, was over after Pletcher's Safari Queen was allowed to coast along on the lead through fractions of 26.50 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 53.07 for the half-mile in the Grade 2 marathon for fillies and mares.

Safari Queen eventually coasted to an easy 5 1/4-length score over Barancella, and beat three other rivals under jockey John Velazquez to record her fourth win in this country and second straight Grade 2 victory. She won the Long Island Handicap in her previous start.

Royal Highness, the 120-pound highweight and runner-up to Safari Queen in the Long Island, was scratched when the race was switched to the main track.

Safari Queen, an Argentine-bred daughter of Lode, is owned by the Arindel Farm. She paid $3.20 after covering 1 1/2 miles in 2:38.57.

"There was some talk of postponing the race a week, but we decided to run her on turf or dirt since she'd won a couple of races in Argentina on dirt and it looked like she was the controlling speed," said Pletcher. "You never take anything for granted, but I was pretty confident after I saw the early fractions. If she had gotten beat after setting such a slow pace she probably would never have run on the dirt again."

Kenny Noe: Weigelia scores upset

Weigelia parlayed his fondness for the Calder racetrack and a speed-favoring sloppy track into a 4 1/4-length victory over Paradise Dancer in the $100,000 . Nightmare Affair, third-place finisher in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, checked home a disappointing sixth as the 6-5 favorite.

Weigelia ($17.40) had posted six wins at Calder coming into the Grade 3 Kenny Noe. Included among those victories were two renewals of the Jack Dudley Sprint as well as the 2004 Carry Back Stakes. He was also third after setting a contested pace here earlier this year in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap.

Weigelia broke alertly from his outside post under jockey Eddie Castro Jr., disputed the pace with How's Your Halo, shook loose after a half-mile, and steadily increased his advantage through the stretch while being timed in 1:24.02. Paradise Dancer outfinished How's Your Halo by a nose to be second.

Nightmare Affair was in traffic leaving the turn and was never a factor.

"I was concerned a little about the wet track and the distance, but I knew the track was playing to speed today. He got the lead, and he just steps up so big at Calder," said Michael Trombetta who trains Weigelia for owner Joseph Balsamo. "He's a nice horse everywhere else but he's an excellent horse here."

Hooper: Hesanoldsalt comes around

Hesanoldsalt, whose last start in south Florida came in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, found the competition a lot more to his liking when returning Saturday to post a 3 1/4-length victory over local division leader Rehoboth in the $100,000 Fred W. Hooper Handicap.

Hesanoldsalt, who had won once in six starts since finishing fifth behind Barbaro in the Florida Derby, chased the speedy Siphon City for nearly six furlongs, overtook that rival leaving the backstretch, then withstood bids from both Rehoboth and Dry Martini to win going away under jockey Rafael Bejarano.

Hesanoldsalt, a 3-year-old homebred son of Broad Brush, is owned by the Live Oak Plantation and trained by Nick Zito. He ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.87 and paid $6.40 as the favorite in a field of 11. The victory was the third in a row in the Hooper for Zito, who won the race in 2004 with Pies Prospect and last year with Andromeda's Hero.

"He's a quality horse but just didn't have it all together earlier this year to run with the Barbaros and Bernardinis," said Zito. "But he ran good in the Pegasus [finishing third], and it looks like he might be coming around."