10/25/2006 11:00PM

Commentator makes the cut


LOUISVILLE, Ky.- Commentator was fortunate to get into the starting lineup for this year's Breeders' Cup Sprint. And trainer Nick Zito is confident that Commentator, a Grade 1 winner, will reward the selection committee's confidence in his horse with a big performance.

The Breeders' Cup Sprint oversubscribed with 16 horses pre-entered on Monday for the 14 starting berths, including Lewis Michael, whose first preference is to run in the Mile. In the end, the decision for the final spot came down to Commentator, who has won only a restricted stakes in two starts this year, and Areyoutalkintome, who this year has won a restricted stakes and an allowance race, and finished second or third in four graded stakes. After much ruminating, the committee opted for Commentator.

"It wasn't an easy decision, just like several others the committee had to make in some of the oversubscribed races," said Churchill Downs racing secretary Ben Huffman, who is one of seven members on the panel that ranked the horses in the oversubscribed races. "There has been some precedent in the past for taking horses who had only one or two starts on the year, and in the end we felt that Commentator, being a Grade 1 winner, was the best horse."

The decision did not sit well with Doug O'Neill, who trains Areyoutalkintome.

"We really felt our horse deserved to be in the field," said O'Neill. "He had more graded points than some of the others, and we figured he was a no-brainer to get into the race after he ran a huge second in the Phoenix Breeders' Cup."

O'Neill originally said he would ship Areyoutalkintome back to the West Coast to run in Saturday's California Cup Sprint at Santa Anita. But after rethinking the situation, he has decided to keep his horse in Kentucky with the hope of possibly still drawing into the Breeders' Cup.

"We rushed to the original decision but now we figure we'll just wait it out and hope for the best," said O'Neill.

As for Commentator, Zito said he wasn't worried, or surprised, that his horse would get into the Sprint.

"He's a Grade 1 winner," said Zito. "He's one of the best and most exciting horses to have campaigned over the last two years. He's Commentator."

Commentator hit the starting gate, broke last and finished 10th behind the winning Pomeroy as the 4-5 favorite in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga after opening his year with a 6 1/4-length win in the Mugatea Stakes.

"He was body sore after the incident at Saratoga, but he's training great at Keeneland," said Zito. "The first time he worked he went a half in 46 and change and looked like he was barely galloping. I thought he went in 49. He's a beautiful horse horse with tremendous ability, and if everything goes well he should be right there in the Sprint."

Also, Zito confirmed Thursday he has landed Julian Leparoux to ride Commentator in the Sprint.