10/05/2008 11:00PM

Odds stacked against 'Romeo'


ARCADIA, Calif. - There are many reasons Gentle Romeo might lose his comeback Wednesday at Santa Anita, and only one good reason why he might win it anyway.

A lightly raced California-bred sprinter, Gentle Romeo drew the disadvantageous inside post in the seven-furlong race, while facing a host of droppers that are eligible to the first-level optional claimer only because they entered for a $40,000 tag.

Other uncertainties include an 11-month layoff, a new stable and rider, and gender adjustment. The race-7 feature will be Gentle Romeo's first since he was gelded, his first for trainer Cliff Sise and jockey Garrett Gomez, and first start since November 2007.

Gentle Romeo can win anyway, but only if he is the best horse. Aside from the layoff, the full brother to Grade 1 winner Silent Sighs and Grade 2 winner Proposed is off to a good start. He won two of his first three starts, and is working like he is ready to fire.

"He is training very good," Sise said, adding that Gomez was aboard the 4-year-old gelding when he turned in a solid six-furlong workout one week ago in 1:13.

Gentle Romeo won both of his previous sprints. But in those wins, he rallied wide from the outside. Wednesday, he is buried on the rail.

"Nobody wants to draw the rail," Sise said, preferring Gentle Romeo had drawn outside where he said "you can sit, and dictate your own race."

The first two weeks of the Oak Tree meet, inside posts were mostly death. In sprints at six furlongs or more, the rail is 0 for 42.

The inside post is not the only hurdle. Three of Gentle Romeo's rivals already cleared the first condition, as Sise recognizes. "Those droppers in for $40,000 claiming, they have so much class," Sise said.

Those include Men Only, who adds blinkers and drops from a second-level allowance. All Man won a third-level allowance in July, and drops from a $50,000 claiming race. Ramsgate won three allowance races in fall 2006, and drops out of a restricted stakes race while stretching to his preferred seven-furlong distance.

Fire Break, El Martillo, and potential upsetter Idaho Joe also entered But if Gentle Romeo still has improved since he last raced - his works suggest he has - he can overcome the draw and win first start back.

If not, well, he has plenty of excuses.