09/11/2009 12:00AM

Girolamo taking on his elders

Barbara D. Livingston
Girolamo, an impressive winner off a 10-month layoff, is back Sunday.

ELMONT, N.Y. - As many graded stakes as Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Stable won at Saratoga, arguably the most impressive horse the outfit ran during the meet was Girolamo, who came off a 10-month layoff to win an allowance race by four lengths.

Sunday, Girolamo returns in another allowance race, facing mostly older horses in a one-mile race that could be a stepping-stone for him to the Grade 2 Jerome on Oct. 11. This $48,000 allowance race became an alternative for Girolamo when the $65,000 Prenup Stakes, a race restricted to 3-year-olds, didn't have enough entries to fill.

"He's training too good to leave in the barn," said Rick Mettee, Godolphin's assistant trainer. "It gives him a chance in a big field against a good group of older horses. He should get something out of it as opposed to training him all the way up to the Jerome."

On Aug. 9, Girolamo won a first-level allowance race by four lengths, racing on the lead through fractions of 22.97 and 45.27 seconds before drawing clear and running seven furlongs in 1:21.57. The horse he beat, Join in the Dance, came back to run second in Monday's $1 million Pennsylvania Derby.

"He was impressive in the race, running the way he did from the 1 hole," Mettee said. "He pressed a good horse. It's going to be interesting to see how he runs back."

Last year, as a 2-year-old, Girolamo won his debut by 3 1/2 lengths at Saratoga before finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Futurity and sixth in the Grade 1 Champagne, his last race of the year.

"Saeed was reluctant to put him a real big race," Mettee said, referring to head trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "This is a natural progression for him."

Girolamo's toughest competition could come from his entrymate Ea, who races for Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stable. Ea, a 5-year-old, won a first-level allowance at Gulfstream - beating Godolphin's Unbridled Heart - before finishing second in both the Charles Town Classic and Grade 2 William Donald Schaefer at Pimlico. Most recently, he finished second at this level.

Other contenders in the field are American Dance, the only other 3-year-old in the field, and Stungbythestorm, a third-level allowance winner at Monmouth in July who is entered for the optional claiming price of $50,000.

So N So getting time off

So N So, the undefeated New York-bred 2-year-old filly, will be given some time off to deal with a shin issue, trainer Tom Bush said.

So N So won the $71,500 Lucy Scribner Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 24, two months after winning her debut by 9 1/2 lengths at Belmont. Bush said So N So came out of his last race "definitely sensitive in one shin."

"She's a big, growthy filly who continues to grow right before our eyes," Bush added. "I don't want to put pressure on her when she's telling us to slow down."

Bush said while So N So would miss the Maid of the Mist Stakes here later this meet, she could return for a division of the New York Stallion Stakes at Aqueduct in November.

Opening day a soggy one

Heavy rains - reminiscent of many days here in June - put a damper on Friday's opening day of the Belmont fall meet. All four races scheduled for the turf were transferred to the main track. In the spring/summer meet, approximately 80 races were forced off the turf.

There were 25 scratches off the program not counting the gate scratch of Elite Billy in the sixth. Then there was a glitch that forced the cancellation of wagering on Titletown Tiger - the only main-track-only entrant - in the ninth. That horse was allowed to run for purse money only, but wagering was not allowed because he was inadvertently scratched in the tote system at the beginning of the day.

Things weren't bad for trainer Bruce Levine, who won the day's first race with Bawana Jake ($7.60). Levine went 1 for 48 at Saratoga.

Julien Leparoux, who will ride here through the first weekend of October, won two races on the card, including one for Allen Jerkens, who went 0 for 28 at Saratoga.