With IEAH Stable’s Benny the Bull topping the lists, Calder Race Course has announced nominations for its July 12 Summit of Speed card.
Nominations closed June 28, with a total of 63 horses for four graded stakes whose combined purses are $1.3 million. Officials of the Miami Gardens, Fla., track will draw entries July 7.
Benny the Bull, trained by Rick Dutrow, Jr., is the likely favorite in the Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. II), for 3-year-olds and up. The 5-year old is coming off wins in the True North Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park on June 7 and the Golden Shaheen Stakes (UAE-I) in Dubai on March 29.
The Smile and the Summit’s three other graded stakes races are at six furlongs.
The lists of Calder-based nominees and possible shippers indicates the quality of the card will not be severely impacted by purse cuts that are part of a contracts dispute that is pitting Calder and parent Churchill Downs Inc. against the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.
Calder has been running without purse and advance deposit wagering (ADW) contracts since it opened its season April 21.
To gain leverage in negotiations, the Florida HPBA has been using its authority under the Interstate Horseracing Act to prevent Calder from sending its signal to any tracks outside Florida. With the exception of six New York State OTB franchises, the Florida HPBA is not permitting ADWs to accept bets on Calder races.
As all-sources handle began falling, Calder on May 9 announced cuts in most of its stakes purses--including the four July 12 graded stakes.
It cut the Smile and the Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. I) from $500,000 to $400,000 and cut the Carry Back Stakes (gr. II) and the Azalea Stakes (gr. III) from $300,000 to $250,000.
Contract negotiations “are at a standstill,” Florida HPBA general counsel Bruce Green said on July 2.
Green said there is a disagreement on two issues that are not directly connected to the 2008 revenue numbers for a purse contract or revenue numbers on slot machines at a possible casino at Calder. He declined to provide further details.
“We are continuing to negotiate with the horsemen,” said CDI spokesman Kevin Flanery, who declined comment on Green’s statement about two main issues.
Flanery and Green each said the sides plan to remain in contact and still hope to sign purse and slots contracts prior to the Summit of Speed--and thus send its signal to tracks outside Florida.
The Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group is negotiating the Florida HBPA’s ADW contract with CDI.
All-sources handle for the Summit has been above $9 million four times in the last five years--including a Calder record $10.8 million in 2004. An assumed blended takeout of 21% left about $2.3 million for horsemen and tracks to divide that year.
This year’s all-sources Summit handle will be considerably lower without contract settlements.
Through June 30, the first 41 days of Calder’s 2008 meet, average daily all-sources handle was $762,000, according to the Jockey Club Information Systems. That is a 72% decline from a daily average of $2.7 million at the same point in 2007.
Nominees for the Summit stakes include:
Smile -- Live Oak Plantation’s Rockerfeller, who won Calder’s Ponche Handicap on the June 14 Summit Preview card, will be among Benny the Bull’s challengers. Maggi Moss’s Indian Chant is likely for the Smile following his win in the Aristides Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs on May 31. Zabeel Racing International’s Thor’s Echo and Frankfort Stables’ Bonfante top the list of possible West Coast shippers.
Princess Rooney -- Minor Stable’s 4-year old Dream Rush is the possible favorite in the stakes for fillies & mares 3-years old and up. She won last year’s Prioress Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park and Test Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga. Puglisi Stable’s Miraculous Miss finished second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Monmouth Park. Miklin Stable’s Dixie Dreamer, winner of Calder’s June 14 U Can Do It Handicap, heads the local contingent.
Carry Back -- Nominees for the stakes for 3-year olds include M375 Thoroughbreds and Suarez Racing Stable’s Golden Spikes, who won Calder’s June 14 Unbridled Stakes. Vinery Stable’s Lantana Mob, winner of Pimlico’s May 17 Hirsch Jacobs Stakes (gr. III) heads the list of prospective shippers.
Azalea -- One possible long-distance shipper who will get attention for the stakes for 3-year old fillies is Bakadur Cheema’s Dancing Allstar. She is coming off a six-race winning streak at Stampede Park in Calgary, Alberta and Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver, B.C. Her rivals will include Caroni Stables’ Orinoquia, who won Calder’s Leave Me Alone Stakes on June 14.