The Summit of Speed will be in the sprinting spotlight on Saturday at Calder Race Course where it debuted 10 years ago. The 2000 event offered five stakes with purses totaling $950,000 and was an immediate hit. In ’02, purses were boosted to $1.35 million and attracted classy thoroughbreds like Orientate, who won the Smile Sprint Handicap en route to a Breeders’ Cup Sprint victory and an Eclipse Award. That afternoon Calder enjoyed a single-day total mutuel handle record exceeding $8.8 million.
Two years later, the $1.75 million event featuring six stakes helped to establish the track’s one-day handle mark of more than $10.8 million.
Then Mother Nature rained on the ’05 renewal that July 9, which featured eight races valued at $1.9 million. The effects of Hurricane Dennis forced the Saturday card to be rescheduled Sunday. Unfortunately, total wagering plummeted to just over $7 million.
Lady Luck abandoned Calder last year when a contract dispute with the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association cost millions in simulcasting revenue. It wasn’t settled until days before the Summit of Speed, forcing reduction of purses by $300,000 for the four graded stakes and cancellation of two races.
The ’09 contract was agreed upon in mid-April before the meeting got under way. However, the weather has been quite rainy this year and there’s a 30 percent chance of showers for the weekend.
Saturday’s card includes seven stakes that attracted some topnotch sprinters despite value of the races dropping to the lowest in history – a total of $1.45 million.
The Smile, worth $500,000 two years ago, is a Grade 2 with a $350,000 purse. The six-horse field of 3-year-olds and up is headed by defending champ Benny the Bull, who concedes from six to a dozen pounds.
The ’08 sprinting Eclipse Award winner in his only start this year was runner-up to Fabulous Strike in the True North on Belmont Stakes Day.
His chief challenger, last year’s runner-up How’s Your Halo gets in six pounds lighter than the son of Lucky Lionel who carries 124 pounds, the same weight he totted in ’08 when scoring by two lengths while covering the six furlongs in 1:11 2/5.
How’s Your Halo is coming off a four-length triumph in the Ponce on June 13. Two months earlier, the son of Halo’s Image edged another starter Ikigai in the Richter Scale at Gulfstream after losing to the runner-up in the Mr. Prospect a month earlier.
Two-time Eclipse champ Indian Blessing faces a field of nine fillies and mares 3-years-old and up going six furlongs in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney, also valued at $350,000 and $150,000 less than it was worth in ’07.
The fourth-place finisher in the Desert Stormer at Hollywood Park on June 15 will tote high weight of 123 pounds. The daughter of Indian Charlie won the ’08 Eclipse Award for female sprinters and was top filly in ’07.
Chief challengers are multi-stakes winner Game Face, who totes 120 pounds, and local sensation Marina Ballerina, 118 pounds, going for her third straight victory.
Game Face finished third in last year’s Acorn behind runner-up Indian Blessing in that Belmont race. The daughter of Menifee, which also defeated starter Keep the Peach twice, triumphed in three stakes this year at Gulfstream.
Marina Ballerina whipped two others in the field while winning the U Can Do It at Calder where’s she’s 3 for 3. The daughter of Outflanker on June 13 was 1 ¼ lengths better than Jessica Is Back while B R’s Girl was another 1 ¼ lengths back in third. Time for the six furlongs was 1:10 4/5.