07/09/2007 11:00PM

Can Cigar Pal get up in time?


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Considering the recent profile that favors front-runners in turf sprints at Hollywood Park, deep closer Cigar Pal could be up against it in the feature race Thursday.

Five of the last seven turf sprints have been won by the early pacesetter, but Cigar Pal will be nowhere near the front when he breaks from the inside post in the second-level allowance-optional $80,000 claimer in race 7.

A field of six entered the $51,000 race, and Cigar Pal might not be able to overcome the recent trend. Or maybe he is simply the best horse in the race and to heck with the profile. In order to win, Cigar Pal will have to catch a horse he could not quite get to in a similar spot three weeks ago.

Only One Way, a presser whose style suits the course, won for the seventh time in 14 starts June 21, beating Cigar Pal by a nose. Trained by John Sadler, Only One Way has won 6 of his last 10 starts, is 2 for 3 on grass, and will get the jump on Cigar Pal. Joel Rosario rides Only One Way.

Julio Canani trains Cigar Pal, who broke slowly in the June 21 race and trailed by 10 lengths after the first quarter-mile. He still trailed with a furlong to go, and then took off late. He closed steadily, but fell short by a nose while probably running the best race.

Michael Baze, the meet's leading rider overall, and the leading rider on grass, is up on Cigar Pal. If he breaks with the field Thursday, he should be close enough to make an impact. Cigar Pal has won 3 of 11 starts overall.

The lack of speed in the race plays to the strength of Only One Way, and Queen's Image will be forwardly placed. Aaron Gryder rides Queen's Image for trainer Jeff Mullins. Queen's Image has won 4 of 7 starts.

The most interesting horse in the field is the least likely winner. Roman Commander finished third in the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity in his last start, beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Stormello. However, Roman Commander has not raced since December and is using the Thursday sprint merely as starting point for a late-season campaign. Alex Solis rides for trainer Gary Stute.

Prime Ruler, fourth in his only start on grass, drops in company after chasing subsequent Grade 1 winner Bilo in a second-level allowance race on dirt. He will be ridden by Richard Migliore.

Headache also is entered.