10/23/2007 12:00AM

Dream Rush vs. La Traviata is pivotal matchup

EmailOCEANPORT, N.J. - The stage was set Tuesday for one of the better matchups of the newly expanded Breeders' Cup when division leaders Dream Rush and La Traviata were among the 10 horses drawn for Friday's $1 million Filly and Mare Sprint at Monmouth Park.

Dream Rush, a two-time Grade 1 winner this year, was established as the 2-1 morning-line favorite over the undefeated La Traviata, who was pegged the 5-2 second choice. La Traviata has won all three of her starts easily but has only one graded stakes victory. Eibar Coa will ride Dream Rush, and regular rider Julian Leparoux has the call on La Traviata.

Dream Rush will break from post 3 while La Traviata drew post 7 for the six-furlong race. They figure to set or press a rapid early pace along with Shaggy Mane (with Cornelio Velasquez riding) and Oprah Winney (Garrett Gomez).

"We're not going to take back," said Rick Violette, who trains Dream Rush, "but if it turns out one or two of them are faster than us, we should be right on their heels on the inside and hopefully in a good spot."

La Traviata originally was being pointing for the BC Sprint, and was given first preference for that race when pre-entries closed a week ago. But earlier this week owners Derrick Smith, Michael Tabor, and John Magnier decided that because of her inexperience it would be easier for La Traviata to run against her own gender than take on males.

La Traviata and another Filly and Mare Sprint entrant, Baroness Thatcher, have been under the tutelage of trainer Patrick Biancone. Both will race Friday in the name of assistant trainer Francois Parisel because Biancone is not allowed to run horses in his name for the Breeders' Cup as part of the penalty for a medication violation in Kentucky. There are no couplings in the Breeders' Cup, so they will run as separate betting interests.

Baroness Thatcher, who drew the rail and will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux, has hit the board this year in three Grade 1 races, including the Test, where she finished 2 1/4 lengths behind Dream Rush. Owned by Zayat Stables, Baroness Thatcher also was second, a nose behind Maryfield, in Saratoga's Grade 1 Ballerina on Aug. 26.

The stretch-running Maryfield (Elvis Trujillo) is one of several members of the field who would benefit by a fast pace - along with Miraculous Miss (Jeremy Rose) and Jazzy (David Flores).