Stanley Ersoff's Band Is Passing, the $150,000 Miami Mile Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) winner in 2000, and Randy Mills' Unite's Big Red, who won it in 1998, both as 4-year-olds, return for Monday's Labor Day renewal at Calder Race Course at one mile on the turf.Band Is Passing is now 6 and Unite's Big Red is 8. Neither has raced since the spring but will lead a strong field of 10 postward.Leading rider Cornelio Velasquez gets the call on Band Is Passing for owner-trainer-breeder Stan Ersoff in his first start since finishing fifth as the favorite in the Equalize Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Mar. 16, Florida Derby Day.Ersoff said that the homebred son of Pass the Line had "minor" problems keeping him on the sidelines but never left regular training. The winner of more than $600,000, he won his last race locally, the Tropical Park Turf Handicap (gr. III) in December.Unite's Big Red will be ridden by Jeremy Beasley and makes his first start since finishing third with trouble in the April 28 Jackie Wackie overnight handicap. The chestnut gelding by Unite won the Equalize in his previous start.The "senior citizen" of the Calder-based turf stakes ranks has earned more than $800,000 during a career interrupted for some 18 months from Feb. 2000 until last Nov. 12. Another top contender in Monday's deep field is Diamond C Stable's Pisces, invading from Kentucky for trainer Kenny McPeek with jockey Roger I. Velez getting the call.Pisces has been with McPeek since early this year after he won the Appleton Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream when based at Calder with trainer Mohammed Moubarak.
A 5-year-old son of Prized, Pisces finished a close-up third, beaten only a half-length for it all by Mr. Livingston in the Miami Mile last September. He was a good second in the Maker's Mark Mile (gr. II) at Keeneland this spring and a close-up third last out under Velez in the Stars and Stripes Handicap (gr. III) going 12 furlongs at Arlington Park on July 6.Two of the 10 entered Monday are for 'dirt' only – Barbara Smollin's $2.5 million winner Sir Bear, with Gary Boulanger, and Stud El Aguila's Uruguay-bred Baron Rojo, with Manoel Cruz. Completing the field are Robert Ise's Junior Deputy, Manuel Aguilar; Raymond Susi's Built Up, Eduardo Nunez; Chef Matteo Racing's Famous Chef, Omar Camejo; J.R. Cavanaugh and Early Morning Farm's Marquette, Abad Cabassa, Jr. and Blue Horse Stable's Irish-bred Doowaley, Abel Castellano, Jr.Marquette would be in with a chance on his best game. The 6-year-old son of Spectacular Bid was a two-time graded stakes winner in his younger days, including a victory in the Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga as a 3-year-old in 1999.Now trained by Myra Mora, Marquette finished fifth last out in the Sussex Handicap at Delaware Park on August 3 after leading past the eighth pole. He was very impressive winning the Kissin Kris overnight handicap over the Calder course on June 8.