11/24/2010 4:27PM

Girolamo should like distance in Cigar Mile

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Barbara D. Livingston
Girolamo, winning the Vosburgh, is 2 for 3 at a mile but has not started at the distance in 13 months.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. − At the end of his 3-year-old year, Girolamo looked to be developing into one of the top milers in the game. But since his victory in the Grade 2 Jerome 13 months ago, Girolamo has yet to run back in a one-mile race.

That will change Saturday, when Girolamo starts in the $250,000 Hill ’n’ Dale Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, the last Grade 1 race on the New York Racing Association circuit this year. Girolamo will be coupled with Vineyard Haven, a Grade 1 winner at a mile, making up a formidable Godolphin Stable entry that could go favored in the contentious 22nd running of this race.

The Cigar Mile is one of four graded stakes on Saturday’s card, which will also include the Grade 1 Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies, the Grade 2 Remsen for 2-year-old colts, and the Grade 2 Demoiselle for 2-year-old fillies.

In fall 2009, Girolamo was impressive in winning a second-level allowance race and the Jerome, both one-turn mile races at Belmont. But following the Jerome, his connections ran him in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at 1 1/4 miles; he finished last of 12 behind Zenyatta over the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita.

Girolamo didn’t make his 4-year-old debut until September, when he ran in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga off a 10-month layoff. He finished fifth. He won a modest renewal of the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont before finishing 11th of 12 as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

“Girolamo didn’t do a lot of running in there from that inside draw,” said Rick Mettee, Godolphin’s New York assistant. “It looks like he might not be a horse that can sit off a 44-and-change pace. He’s more of a 45-and-change, 46-type horse.”

Girolamo, who broke from post 2 in the Sprint, drew the rail in the Cigar Mile. Vineyard Haven, who won the Grade 1 Champagne at a mile at 2, finished third in last year’s Cigar Mile behind Kodiak Kowboy and Bribon.

“His best race as a 2-year-old was the Champagne, and his best race as a 3-year-old was arguably the Cigar Mile,” Mettee said. “You can’t say he doesn’t get the mile.”Haynesfield, who won the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup with Ramon Dominguez two starts back, will be ridden by Javier Castellano in the Cigar Mile. Dominguez, who also rode Haynesfield in the Classic, had a call to ride Half Metal Jacket in the Cigar Mile before he knew Haynesfield was going to run in the race. With the connections of neither horse wanting to give up Dominguez, his agent, Steve Rushing, elected to sit out the race.

Bribon, who finished third in the 2008 Cigar Mile and second last year, comes off a win in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler at Belmont on Oct. 30. Others entered in the Cigar Mile include Soaring Empire, Jersey Town, Friend or Foe, and Musket Man.