07/05/2012 2:02PM

Calder: Musical Romance star attraction in Summit of Speed's Princess Rooney

Bob Coglianese
Champion female sprinter Musical Romance must concede four to nine pounds to her 10 opponents in the Princess Rooney.

MIAMI – When Musical Romance walked into the starting gate for the 2011 Princess Rooney Handicap, she was just another nice Calder stakes horse on a bit of a roll at the time. Six months later, she was both a Breeders’ Cup and Eclipse Award champion.

When Musical Romance steps into the gate for Saturday’s Grade 1 Princess Rooney, she will do so as the starting highweight, favorite, and reigning division champion. What a difference a year makes!

Musical Romance is the marquee name on Calder’s marquee day, the Summit of Speed, which features six stakes, highlighted by the Grade 1 Princess Rooney and the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap. The Princess Rooney and Smile carry purses of $400,000 apiece with the Smile again designated as a Win and You’re In event for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

HRTV will be on site to broadcast the Summit of Speed for the sixth consecutive year. The live show airs from 4-6 p.m. Eastern and includes coverage of all four graded stakes on the card, including the Grade 3 Carry Back and Grade 3 Azalea.

Oddly, the Princess Rooney was the only main-track sprint race Musical Romance did not win during the final eight months of her championship season. A daughter of Concorde’s Tune who is owned by trainer Bill Kaplan along with the Pinnacle Racing Stable, Musical Romance was caught in the final strides by the furious closing surge of the favored Sassy Image, missing by a neck after taking the lead between calls in deep stretch.

The versatile Musical Romance had to be supplemented into the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint but made the investment more than worthwhile after slipping up the rail under a picture-perfect ride by Juan Leyva to register a 1 1/4- length victory over Switch to clinch division honors. She has started four times this season, rebounding from a minor injury suffered leaving the starting gate in the Sunshine Millions to register her lone victory of the year in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 2 Inside Infomation.

Musical Romance has trained extremely well for the Princess Rooney, completing a series of strong works with a bullet half-mile in 46.23 seconds last week.

“She’s coming into the race as good as I could possibly hope for,” said Kaplan. “The last breeze was a little faster than I wanted but it didn’t take anything out of her. She did it all on her own. I’m very confident but you know anything can happen, just like it did when she hit the gate at the start of the Sunshine Millions and injured herself.”

Musical Romance will carry high weight of 122 pounds, including Leyva, in the Princess Rooney, conceding four to nine pounds to her 10 rivals, six of whom come from the barn of trainer Marty Wolfson. She is one of two horses Kaplan will send out in the race, along with Wild Bout Tiffany, upset winner of the U Can Do It Handicap four weeks ago.

Only two horses shipped in for the Princess Rooney, the much-improved Bouquet Booth and the consistent Nicole H.

Bouquet Booth added blinkers and ran off to an easy six-length optional claiming win when turning back to six furlongs at Churchill Downs on May 24. The performance was worth a career-best 95 Beyer Speed Figure.

Nicole H ran twice within a six day span earlier this spring, finishing fourth, beaten less than a length, in Parx’s My Juliet and second, a neck behind C C’s Pal, less than a week later in Belmont Park’s Grade 2 Vagrancy.

Wolfson said of the six fillies he will start in the race he believes Nakano might be the best of the group. He expects Golden Mystery to be on the lead. The group also includes Indulgence, who finished third, a length behind Musical Romance, in the 2011 Princess Rooney.