05/18/2012 1:26PM

Calder: Musical Romance looking at lighter schedule this year

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MIAMI – Musical Romance was not only the filly and mare sprint champion in 2011, she was a workhorse to boot, making 14 starts during her Eclipse Award-winning campaign that culminated with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

But if Musical Romance is going to defend her title, both in the Breeders’ Cup and for divisional honors in 2012, she’s going to do so without the same type of workload she carried a year ago.

Trainer Bill Kaplan said Friday he has tentatively mapped out a light scheduled between now and Breeders’ Cup day for Musical Romance, who is coming off a second-place finish behind the spectacular performance of Groupie Doll in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs.

“The main goal is to get her back to the Breeders’ Cup healthy and ready to do her best,” said Kaplan. “At the moment the only two races I’ve got picked out for certain are the Princess Rooney in July and the Ballerina at Saratoga the following month. They are both Grade 1 races, the first one being right here in our own backyard.”

Kaplan explained that Musical Romance made the bulk of her starts last season early in the year, before she established herself as a Grade 1-caliber sprinter. The campaign turned around following her second-place finish behind the odds on Sassy Image in the Princess Rooney.

“She did her heavy running early in the year before she was a graded stakes horse last season,” said Kaplan. “I don’t see the need to run her in non-graded races this year. There is a slight chance she could prep for the Princess Rooney, like she did last summer, in the U Can Do It, although at this point I’d say it was highly unlikely.”

The U Can Do It is carded at six furlongs here on June 9.

“She’ll probably work around the first and then we’ll decide,” said Kaplan. “But I think I can get her ready for the Princess Rooney in the morning.”

Kaplan also said that even though Musical Romance was beaten more than seven lengths in the Humana Distaff, he believes it might have been her best performance to date. Musical Romance earned a 96 Beyer Speed Figure for her last start, just two points under the number she received for winning the BC Filly and Mare Sprint.

“I thought she ran a tremendous race in the Humana,” said Kaplan. “She had to go a little wide, split horses, and she still ran away from the rest of the field by five lengths. She just got beat by an amazing, unbelievable performance by the winner who not only beat us by seven lengths but ran a few ticks faster than both the Preakness winner and champion male sprinter did a short while earlier, while being eased up at the wire.”

Kaplan was referring to Groupie Doll’s final time of 1:20.44, which was not only a track record but .50 of a second faster than Shackleford covered seven furlongs defeating BC Sprint winner Amazombie by a head in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Sprint about 90 minutes earlier.

“Naturally Groupie Doll worries me, but that was one performance at Churchill Downs,” said Kaplan. “We’ll see what happens down the road. If she continues to do something like that, I can’t beat her. But I’m looking forward to facing her again either in the Ballerina or the Breeders’ Cup.”

Sinister Tale heads feature

Sunday’s nine-race card will be highlighted by a six-furlong dash for 3-year-old fillies that will be decided under entry-level allowance conditions for a $28,000 purse.

Sinister Tale, who won a high-level optional claiming and allowance race this winter at Gulfstream Park, will likely be favored coming off her fourth place finish in the French Village Stakes. Sinister Tale, a daughter of Tale of the Cat trained by Antonio Sano, will race in blinkers for the first time on Sunday.

Other key contenders include Arabella’s Tune, who has been working well for her second start of the season; Funny Belle; Highland Sara; and the stakes placed Given Enchantment.