Leading the probable older starters in the Elmer Heubeck are veteran 5-year-old rivals Herb and Ione Elkins' Castlebrook and Town and Country Stable's Coolbythepool, both hard-hitting mares that have dominated the division over the last two seasons.
Trainer Bill Cesare confirmed Friday that Bitterroot Investments' 3-year-old filly Cellars Shiraz, impressive winner in the $200,000 Calder Oaks on Oct. 12, would remain at Calder to run in the $200,000 Elmer Heubeck Distaff Handicap on the main track Nov. 16. The 1 1/16-mile Heubeck is one of six stakes races on the inaugural Florida Million Day program."It's on the dirt against older mares," said Cesare, "but she's got to face older mares eventually and she runs good on the dirt." He acknowledged, though, that he thinks the home-bred daughter of Kissin Kris is probably at her best on turf.The other option for the filly was to run against straight 3-year-old fillies in the $150,000 Mrs. Revere Handicap (gr. II) going 1 1/16 miles on turf the same day at Churchill Downs.Cellars Shiraz has three wins and two seconds from 11 career starts on dirt, including gaping victories in her last two. Her most recent main track start was a nine-length romp in the $100,000 Office Queen Stakes at Calder on June 15. Earlier this year she scored by nearly six lengths when the Gaily Gaily Stakes at Gulfstream came off the turf in early March.One confirmed invader for the Elmer Heubeck is Eastern Sky Unlimited Trust's 3-year-old filly Ponche De Leona, shipping from California for trainer Christopher Paasch. Ponche De Leona is a roan/gray daughter of Ponche and finished third last out in the Palo Alto Handicap at Bay Meadows. Originally developed at Calder by trainer Larry Pilotti last fall, she won her first start for her new connections in California in the Anoakia Stakes last fall at Santa Anita.