10/21/2005 12:00AM

BC Sprint: Roman Ruler gets ready to shorten up


ELMONT, N.Y. - Roman Ruler has never run a race at the Breeders' Cup Sprint distance of six furlongs and is clearly more accomplished around two turns than one. But the Grade 1-winning 3-year-old showed plenty of zip Friday morning at Santa Anita, working a half-mile in 46.20 seconds under regular exercise rider Dana Barnes.

Trainer Bob Baffert decided earlier this month to turn Roman Ruler back to six furlongs for the Breeders' Cup Sprint rather than send him 1 1/4 miles against older, more seasoned rivals in the Classic. And he couldn't have been more pleased with Roman Ruler's final Sprint prep.

"He looked really good," Baffert said by phone from California shortly after the work. "I caught him galloping out in 58 and change. He's ready.

"The problem for this horse in the Breeders' Cup is that we're stuck in a distance situation, especially since he's a horse you can't rush off his feet," he added. "The key with him is not to push him or he'll lose his action. It's too bad the Breeders' Cup doesn't have a mile race on the dirt. At least if the Sprint was at 6 1/2 furlongs it would give us a better chance."

Baffert said he has all the respect in the world for the undefeated Lost in the Fog, who will be a heavy favorite going into the Sprint, and he acknowledges Roman Ruler will need the right setup to beat him.

"We're going to need a pace setup in the Sprint, and a lot will also depend on how the track is playing at Belmont next Saturday," Baffert said. "He already proved he likes it, but it never seems to be the same from one day to the next."

With a forecast of rain, the weather in New York this weekend has become a growing concern for horsemen with Breeders' Cup contenders, including Ben Perkins and Mark Hennig, the respective trainers of Sprint hopefuls Wildcat Heir and Gygistar.

"I'd like to work him Monday, but anything between Saturday and Tuesday would be fine," said Perkins, who is already playing catch-up with Wildcat Heir.

Hennig was hoping to work Gygistar five furlongs on Sunday, but, like Perkins, he said his schedule would all depend on the weather.

"If I have to push the work up a day to Saturday that would be fine," Hennig said, "although from the sounds of things it looks like we may have to wait until Monday."