While a potential sweep of both divisions of the Florida Stallion Stakes Series is the feature on Saturday’s Festival of the Sun card at Calder Casino & Race Course, trainer Bill White can win the two turf stakes races on the card — the Tropical Park Derby and the Frances A. Genter Stakes.
White is sending maiden winner Colossians in the $70,000 Tropical Park Derby for 3-year-olds, which is scheduled for one mile on the turf course. He’s sending Nicki Starshine and Jade’s Rainbow in the $70,000 Frances A. Genter Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, which is scheduled for one mile on the turf.
Colossians, who is owned by Donald R. Dizney, was transferred to White midsummer after running his first career race with trainer Bob Baffert at Hollywood Park. He ran fifth in a six-furlong maiden claiming race on their all-weather track on May 10. In his first race for White on Aug. 2, Colossians chased the pace, took the lead in the stretch, and cleared away to win the seven-furlong maiden claiming race at Calder by four lengths.
The Tropical Park Derby will be Colossians’ stakes debut, as well as his first race on the turf.
“We feel that he is a grass horse,” White said. “I won the turf race with Dysprosium a few weeks ago, and we’ve shipped him up to New York, so I needed a horse for the next stake. I figured we would give Colossians a shot. I know it is a little bit of a reach, but you never know unless you try.”
Dysprosium won the 1 1/16-mile Needles Stakes on the turf at Calder on Sept. 14 during Festival Preview day by a clear six lengths. He is now with trainer Bill Mott to prepare for a run on Saturday in the Grade 3 Knickerbocker Stakes at Belmont Park. Four runners that ran in the Needles with Dysprosium are entered in the Tropical Park Derby.
“I thought that Dysprosium won so impressively and the horses that finished behind him all seemed to be pretty bunched up. So I felt with Dysprosium removed, it was a wide open race, so I am just taking a shot,” White said.
Sunshine Thoroughbred Corp. owns Nicki Starshine and Jade’s Rainbow. The fillies both broke their maidens at Calder last year in maiden claiming races over seven furlongs on the main track. Nicki Starshine advanced ahead to win by eight lengths after chasing the pace heading into the stretch. Jade’s Rainbow broke her maiden by 6 1/2 lengths by setting the pace and clearing her lead down the stretch.
In eight lifetime starts, Nicki Starshine has never finished worse than third.
"What impresses me about Nicki Starshine is her consistency," White said. "She won a stake in her last start as a 2-year-old. Then after a layoff, she came right back and won another stake and then ran a good second as a highweight again in a stake. What I really admire about her, even though she is a young filly, is she is very consistent. What I really respect about her is how she shows up every time."
Nicki Starshine earned her first career stakes victory last November at Calder in the 1 1/16-mile John Franks Juvenile Fillies Turf Stakes on the turf. She cleared away down the stretch to win by 31/4 lengths after racing toward the back of the pack for much of the race. She did not return to the races until Aug. 3 and made her first start off the layoff in the 7 ½-furlong Crystal Rail Stakes on the turf at Calder.
Jade’s Rainbow makes her stakes debut in the Frances A. Genter Stakes. She has yet to return to the winner’s circle since breaking her maiden.
After making her 3-year-old debut in January at Gulfstream Park in her sixth career start, in which she finished second by three-quarters of a length, Jade’s Rainbow did not race again until Sept. 20 at Calder.
In a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claiming race that was taken off the turf, Jade’s Rainbow faded down the stretch to finish fifth after running in the third spot and making her move around the far turn.
"It was her first start off the layoff and by coming off the turf on the dirt, it is a more demanding surface. It tests a horse’s fitness much more than the turf does," White said. "I think she would have run very well if it would have remained on the grass. When it came off the grass and she was forced to run on the dirt with that kind of layoff, I think it was a little much for her. But we knew she needed to run. She needed to get one under her belt so we just looked at it as part of her training to get her ready."
With two runners in the Frances A. Genter Stakes that have different running styles, White sends out a double threat for the race.
"I think Jade’s Rainbow wants to lay a little closer to the pace," White said. "I think they will both be in position that if the pace is slow, Jade’s Rainbow will benefit from that, and if the pace is quick, Nicki Starshine will benefit from that. We’re expecting Nicki Starshine to run her usual big race but I would not be surprised if Jade’s Rainbow is a big part of the results also."
The Tropical Park Derby kicks off the day’s stakes action as the sixth race with an approximate post time of 3 p.m. Colossians will break from post seven and will have jockey Jeffrey Sanchez aboard. The Frances A. Genter Stakes closes out the day’s stakes action as the ninth race with an approximate post time of 4:30 p.m.
Sanchez will also ride Nicki Starshine, and will break from post seven. Jockey Jesus Rios is named to ride Jade’s Rainbow from post six alongside Sanchez and Nicki Starshine.