11/03/2010 6:49PM

Break critical for Girolamo in Breeders' Cup Sprint

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. − A year ago, Girolamo was ambitiously placed in the Breeders’ Cup Classic over a synthetic surface at Santa Anita that obviously was not to his liking. He finished 12th and last at 25-1 behind Zenyatta. On Saturday, Girolamo returns in the Breeders’ Cup, this time in a more suitable spot − over a conventional dirt course and as the 7-2 morning-line favorite in the $2 million Sprint.

The complexion of the Sprint, a six-furlong race, has changed dramatically in the last two months, beginning with the retirement of division leader Majesticperfection. That was followed by the defection of Here Comes Ben to the Dirt Mile and a season-ending injury to Discreetly Mine.

Girolamo arguably inherited leadership in the sprint division following his 2 1/4-length victory over Riley Tucker in Belmont’s six-furlong Vosburgh, earning a 105 Beyer Speed Figure and the first Grade 1 win of his career. The Vosburgh was Girolamo’s second start since the 2009 Classic. He began the season four weeks earlier by finishing fifth behind Here Comes Ben in the Grade 1 Forego.

“The Sprint is going to be a wide-open race, and we feel we’ve got a fresh horse that might not have peaked yet, although we know he’ll have to run faster than he did in the Vosburgh to win,” said Rick Mettee, New York-based assistant for trainer Saeed bin Suroor and Godolphin Stable.

one of several variables will contribute toward deciding the winner of the Sprint not the least of which is post positionGirolamo will break from post two under Alan Garcia, just outside second-choice Big Drama, who is drawn on the rail under Eibar Coa. Mettee said he thinks the break and the opening furlong will be crucial for Girolamo.

“I don’t know how much the post will affect him,” Mettee said. “Hopefully, he’ll break OK and get good position. I really don’t know how the pace will develop or how much there will be, because all I read is how every trainer with a speed horse says they’re going to take back. You also don’t know how the track will play either. I think he’s a horse that can sit a little bit, although I don’t want him to get too far back and have to start matching strides with the dead closers at the end. The break and opening eighth-mile are going to be crucial for us.”

Trainer David Fawkes was equally concerned about the post for Big Drama.

“It is what it is, and there’s nothing I can do about it,” Fawkes said. “Fortunately, with his tactical speed I don’t think he’ll get that far back unless he stumbles or something leaving there. He’s doing super good, and I’m confident he’ll run his race.”

Big Drama is coming off second-place finishes behind Majesticperfection in the Grade 1 Alfred Vanderbilt Handicap and Here Comes Ben in the Grade 1 Forego.

Handicappers can also make a good case for just about every other horse in the field.

Warrior’s Reward figures to be finishing best in the Sprint, just as he did when he rallied from last to win the Grade 1 Carter Handicap in April.

Here Comes Ben’s stablemate Wise Dan is lightly raced but razor sharp for trainer Charles Lopresti, who is coming off a sensational Keeneland meeting. Wise Dan defeated Warrior’s Reward when he won the Grade 3 Phoenix at Keeneland four weeks earlier.

Smiling Tiger has won a pair of Grade 1 stakes in his last three starts, including the Ancient Title at Hollywood four weeks earlier. He worked superbly over the local strip, although he remains unproven on conventional dirt.

Kinsale King captured the Grade 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen at Meydan during the spring but has made just two subsequent starts and none since finishing 12th of 14 at Newmarket in July.

Supreme Summit rallied from last before losing by a half-length in the Ancient Title but is another without proven form on dirt.

Riley Tucker finished second behind Girolamo in the Vosburgh and turned in the best performance of his career at Churchill Downs on May 29, when he rallied to a two-length victory over Atta Boy Roy in the Grade 3 Aristides.

Atta Boy Roy may prove the one to catch. He will try to duplicate his wire-to-wire, half-length victory in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap on Derby Day.

Rounding out the field are Hamazing Destiny, who has run some of his best races over the local track; Pashito the Che, who never seems to run a poor race anywhere; and Cash Refund, a two-time stakes winner with enough speed to force the pace from the outset.