10/26/2007 12:00AM

No shortage of pace for Midnight Lute's run

EmailOCEANPORT, N.J. – Midnight Lute will be the favorite in Saturday's $2 million Breeders Cup Sprint at Monmouth Park. But even his trainer, Bob Baffert, knows that in a race like the Sprint, having the favorite is no assurance of also having the winner.

"All I can do is hope the best horse wins," said Baffert. "Other than that, it's out of my hands."

Most observers agree that Midnight Lute is the best horse coming into this year's Sprint following his spectacular victory in Saratoga's seven-furlong, Grade 1 Forego, for which he received a Beyer Speed Figure of 124, the highest posted by any horse in the country this year. But it has been five years since a favorite has won the Sprint, when Orientate did it at Arlington Park in 2002.

The question is whether the late-striding and at times slow-breaking Midnight Lute can duplicate his Forego performance turning back to six furlongs over Monmouth Park's speed-favoring strip.

"He looks good and is doing great, but there's certainly no margin for error going six furlongs," said Baffert. "First of all, you have to leave with the field. The Sprint is all about who gets away as well as who's sharp that day. Not every horse runs their best race on Breeders Cup Day. That's the reason you see so many major upsets and so many major flops. They are all good horses in this race. Every one has a license to win."

Shaun Bridgmohan rode Midnight Lute to his victory in the Forego, the only win this year in four starts for this son of Real Quiet, although Baffert will hand the reins over to Garrett Gomez for the Sprint.

Midnight Lute should have an honest pace to run at in the Sprint. There is still an abundance of speed in the 10-horse lineup, even without Attila's Storm, who was scratched Thursday with an ankle injury.

Mark Shuman, who trains Talent Search, and Bill Spawr, who will send out Bordonaro, have both made no bones about their strategy when the starting gate opens.

"We're the speed of the speed," said Shuman of Talent Search, who went head and head for the lead with the victorious Fabulous Strike in the Vosburgh. "The break is always important in this type of race, and he just outbreaks everybody and gets a head start. I'm just glad we don't have to run against Fabulous Strike again Saturday. Nobody in the country could have beaten him."

Bordonaro, who has led at the quarter- and half-mile calls of each of his last five starts, will add blinkers for the Sprint.

"He's run his best races when in front," said Spawr. "He's gone 43 and change and kept going before, so we're not going to start taking him back now."

Idiot Proof, winner of the Grade 1 Ancient Title handicap in his last start, and Commentator also figure to have a say in the early pace.

"When he's right, he's as fast as anybody going six furlongs," trainer Nick Zito said of Commentator, winner of the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap in 2005.

A fast pace would also be music to the ears of several other trainers in the race aside from Baffert. Among them are Greg Gilchrist, who will send out Smokey Stover, and Rick Dutrow Jr., whose Benny the Bull figures to be rallying from far back.

Smokey Stover has won 5 of 6 starts this year, his lone loss coming over a wet track in Calder's Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap.

"Breaking from the rail, I just hope we can fall in right behind all the speed and get a good trip from just off the pace," said Gilchrist.

Benny the Bull was last down the backstretch before rallying to be second behind Midnight Lute in the Forego, earning a stellar 119 Beyer Figure of his own that day.

"It's all about the trip with his running style," said Dutrow. "If he gets a good one, we're very live. If not,we're dead."

The Sprint also will see the return of Kelly's Landing, who has not started since winning the Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 31. In the 2006 Sprint, Kelly's Landing had little chance, finishing 10th, after breaking from post 14.