Double S Stable, Ken Avanzino, and Joe Sullivan's French Charmer will be the starting highweight for this Saturday's $100,000 Flying Pidgeon Handicap at Calder Race Course. A full field of 12 has been entered for the 1 1/8-mile turf contest that will go as the fifth race on the card. The Flying Pidgeon is the final stakes race of the 2003 Calder meeting as the Tropical-at-Calder season starts Oct. 25.
French Charmer, who has won five of his last six starts, is trained by Harry Benson. Winner of the John D. Schapiro Breeders' Cup at Laurel Park on Aug. 2, the 4-year-old French Deputy gelding had won an allowance over the local course in 2002 as well as a pair at Gulfstream Park before shipping north for the summer. Jockey Chris DeCarlo has the mount.
French Charmer's main competition will include David and Teresa Palmer's Mr. Livingston. A winner of over $400,000 lifetime, the 6-year-old has earned most of his money on turf, including several Calder overnight handicaps. He won the 2001 Miami Mile Breeders' Cup Handicap and was back for another try in the race here on Sept. 1, but caught bad luck when the race was taken off the grass by rain and he finished last. Mr. Livingston, who has eight career turf wins, will be ridden by leading jockey Manoel Cruz.
Thomas Croley's Stormy Roman is another good turf performer who has won over the course. Trained by Tim Hills, the 4-year-old son of Future Storm drew post one and gets the services of regular rider Manuel Aguilar. The gelding is consistent, but has not won a race since taking the Pete Axthelm Stakes at seven and a half-furlongs here last December.
Completing the field for the Flying Pidgeon are John Franks' Cellars Merlot, Paul Toscano; Bill and Vicki Poston's Lost Appeal, Eduardo Nunez; Runnin Horse Farms' Serial Bride, Jose Ferrer; Michael Gill's Stauch, Eddie Castro; R.M. DuBois' Mychampion, Melvin Toro; Rustlewood Farm's Drink a Toast, Cecilio Penalba; Marie and David Guez' Just Listen, Roger Velez; Robert Bakerman's True Love's Secret, Luis Arango; and Roger Block and David Muench's Military Man, Phil Teator. Falls Racing Stable's Pah is on the also-eligible list.
Cellars Merlot is the older brother of the filly Cellars Shiraz, a multiple stakes winner. A 5-year-old, Cellars Merlot has yet to win a stakes, but has been stakes-placed and has had good recent form. Lost Appeal, a 5-year-old mare, is the lone female in the field. She has won six of 10 starts this year, but takes a big step up in the Flying Pidgeon.