05/31/2006 11:00PM

Cervelo's best shot on dirt

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MIAMI - Cervelo's chances of successfully defending his title in Saturday's $45,000 Blazing Sword Stakes at Calder may hinge on the weather.

turned in one of the gamest performances of the 2005 season to win lasy year's edition of the Blazing Sword, dueling every step of the way on the lead and then reasserting himself after being headed at midstretch to defeat the multiple graded-stakes winner Nightmare Affair by a neck. The victory marked the last time Cervelo has visited the winner's circle, and came after the Blazing Sword was switched from the turf to a sloppy main track due to rain.

This year's Blazing Sword is again scheduled to be run at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf, and while Cervelo has won on grass, he likely has a better chance of defending his crown if the race were again moved to the main track. That's a distinct possibility after heavy rain soaked the course early Thursday morning.

Cervelo was given the winter off by trainer Ron Spatz, finally returning last month to finish fifth going five furlongs in the Reappeal Stakes on turf. Paul Toscano, who guided Cervelo to his hard-fought win in the 2005 Blazing Sword, will again have the mount.

Cervelo may also have to alter tactics if he's to defend his title. This year's Blazing Sword is loaded with speed, assuming Keep Cool, Miners Bid, Lord Robyn, Lord Abounding, and Mending Fences all start.

A contested pace could play into the hands of , who comes off the best performance of his career, a come-from-behind three-quarter-length victory on the turf going 7 1/2 furlongs under second-level allowance conditions on May 5.

The stretch-running , winless since 2004, should also relish all the speed in the lineup. He finished full of run despite being forced to check when blocked behind a wall of horses in late stretch to finish second, beaten just a neck by Dirtymoposse, in the Reappeal.

If the Blazing Sword ends up on the main track for the second straight year, Cervelo figures to face his toughest tests from Universal Form and the red-hot Precise Star.

Universal Form improved dramatically near the end of 2005 and early this past winter, climbing out of the allowance ranks to win a pair of stakes, including Gulfstream Park's Grade 3 Deputy Minister Handicap. He was also third behind Mister Fotis and Sir Greeley in Gulfstream's Grade 2 Richter Scale Breeders' Cup.

Precise Star, a New York-bred, has won his last four starts but has yet to run beyond six furlongs and is another who figures to be heavily involved in the early pace.