Stroll, Best of the Rest Lead Calder Festival of Sun

(from Calder report)
Claiborne Farm's 3-year-old Stroll, shipping in from New York, and Bea Oxenberg's 8-year-old resident handicap star Best of the Rest are among a host of top class performers set to run on Saturday's $1.5 million Festival of the Sun program Saturday at Calder Race Course.

The $400,000 In Reality and My Dear Girl finales of the Florida Stallion Stakes highlight Saturday's action with six more stakes races worth another $750,000 to be run during the annual action-packed program.

Stroll appears to be a standout in a full field of 12 3-year-olds entered in the $200,000 Calder Derby (gr. IIIT) at 1 1/8 miles on turf. He ships in from New York with Jerry Bailey to ride.

Stroll is a homebred son of Pulpit trained by Bill Mott, who shipped Miesque's Son to run second in last year's Calder Derby. Stroll is on a four-race win streak, most recently the Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga and Jamaica Handicap (Ggr. IIT) at Belmont.

The $200,000 Calder Oaks, companion test for 3-year-old fillies to the Derby, also attracted a full field of 12. Elite Racing and partners' Formal Miss looks like the horse to beat in a wide-open affair with leading rider Manoel Cruz in the saddle.

Developed and trained at Calder by Paul Maxwell, Formal Miss has won all three of her starts over the Calder turf course, including the Judy's Red Shoes Stakes last out by nearly four lengths. The daughter of Formal Dinner made a foray to Texas for the July 4 Lone Star Oaks and finished third as the favorite with a troubled trip early in the race that she couldn't overcome.

Best of the Rest is a solid favorite in the $100,000 Spend A Buck Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the main track and will have Bailey back aboard. Bailey rode the homebred son of Skip Trial to finish second in this race last year.

Best of the Rest has been patiently handled by trainer Eddie Plesa. He has just 29 races for earnings of $1.25 million. The roan/gray horse won renewals of the Spend A Buck in 1999 and 2001. Bailey rode Best of the Rest three straight times late last year, including a victory in the Carl Rose Classic on Florida Million day in mid-November. He makes his first start since capturing the Skip Away Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park on April 20.

The biggest threat to Best of the Rest's bid for a 'three-peat' in the Spend A Buck are likely to come from Newcomb Green's 8-year-old gelding Dancing Guy, a longtime rival, and Double G Stable's Tour Of The Cat, a versatile 5-year-old better known for his sprint talent.

The $100,000 Shocker T. Handicap is the filly and mare companion test to the Spend A Buck and drew a wide-open, full field of 12 with no obvious favorites in the 1 1/16 miles test.

Thorobeam Farm's 5-year-old mare Sara's Success and Stride Rite Racing's 4-year-old Stormy Frolic are the most accomplished in the field but both were disappointments in their last starts.