MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Jacks or Better Farm, Inc.’s Florida-bred Awesome Belle and Luis Duco Stable, Inc.’s Empire Builder are just a few of the locally based stars scheduled to compete in one of the four stakes offered as part of the rich Festival Preview Day at Calder Casino & Race Course on Saturday.
Trained by Stanley Gold, and winner of the $300,000 Susan’s Girl Division of the 2011 Florida Stallion Stakes, Awesome Belle was nothing more than a disappointment through the first half of her 2012 season. After dropping her first eight decisions of the year, seven of which she failed to hit the board in, the filly returned to her winning ways when taking the $75,000 Three Ring Stakes on the Calder main track July 21 at the expense of then-divisional leader Frolic’s Revenge.
The daughter of Journeyman Stud stallion Awesome of Course followed that streak-halting victory with another trip to the winner’s circle on August 18, this time after a turf victory in the $75,000 Crystal Rail Stakes where she once again bested Frolic’s Revenge.
Off those wins, Awesome Belle has rocketed to the top of the 3-year-old filly division and enters this Saturday’s $75,000 Judy’s Red Shoes Stakes as the likely favorite. Fernando Jara will ride the filly from post one in the 1 1/16-mile turf test, which could be in jeopardy of being moved to the main track as rains continue to inundate the south Florida region.
Starting directly off the right flank of Awesome Belle in Saturday’s stake is her nemesis Frolic’s Revenge, who was 6 ¾ lengths better than Awesome Belle when those two met earlier this year in the $100,000 Calder Oaks but has proven futile in her resistance of that rival in their last two meetings.
Trained by Milt Wolfson for the ownership of Stride Rite Racing Stable, Inc., Frolic’s Revenge began the Calder season with three straight stakes victories, taking the Oaks, the $55,000 Regal Gal by 17 lengths, and the $55,000 Sweettrickydancer to seize control of the divisional race.
The daughter of Vindication’s time at the top was first threatened when losing a nose decision to Awesome Belle in the $75,000 Three Ring, and she was subsequently supplanted at the head of the table when a lackluster fifth behind that return winner in the Crystal Rail.
Frolic’s Revenge will add blinkers for the Judy’s Red Shoes, which will not be the only change of note as jockey Juan Leyva will replace Luis Saez aboard the filly as she tries to reclaim the divisional lead from post two on Saturday.
Filling out the field for a compelling edition of the Judy’s Red Shoes is Peter Vegso’s Florida-bred Obrigeta, second in the Crystal Rail; ARS Racing Stable’s Jazz, third in that same race; Alters Racing Stable, Inc.’s Wicked Night, third against older in the $55,000 Ms Brookski; and Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centofanti’s Fine Silver, a good-looking recent allowance winner.
Michael Sebastian’s Imperial Strike, Virginia and James Gamble’s Montessa G, and Jacks or Better Farms, Inc. Redbud Road are also slated for a start in the race.
If Awesome Belle’s hold on the 3-year-old filly division lead is a bit tenuous, there is little doubt that the top local 3-year-old colt, at least over a route of ground, is the Luis Duco-trained Empire Builder, who enters the $75,000 Needles Stakes, scheduled at 1 1/16 miles on turf, with three stakes victories in his last four starts.
Empire Builder first gained local attention when upsetting the $55,000 Mambo Meister in late May, later validating that somewhat surprising victory by returning to take the $55,000 American Dreamer Stakes in his next start. After taking a step backwards with a puzzlingly poor fifth-place performance in the El Kaiser Stakes, the colt shook off any ill-effects from that outing when coming back four weeks later to win the $55,000 Naked Greed Stakes, on turf, by two lengths.
Starting from post three in the Needles, Empire Builder will be ridden for the first time by Jara, who replaces injured apprentice rider Jonathan Gonzales in the saddle.
Empire Builder will face the usual sophomore suspects in the Needles as the second, third, fourth, sixth, and eighth-place finishers from the Naked Greed, Amaya and Centofanti’s Musical Flair, Joseph Balsamo’s Bellefire, Gary Aiken’s Florida-bred Kings Over, Rohan Crichton’s All Knight, and Christine Garrity and Anthony Amante’s Mr. Espresso, all return for Saturday’s race.
Completing the field is Bryan Hilliard’s lightly raced Florida-bred Fan Base, Vegso’s recent maiden winner Florida-bred Porto, and Signal Hill Farms’ turf allowance winner Mucho Mas Macho.
Photo by Coady