10/15/2008 11:00PM

Several contenders come in off long breaks


For Corinthian, the inaugural running of the Dirt Mile was a perfect storm. After winning the Met Mile off a 51-day layoff, he ran just twice during the summer and was coming off a 55-day layoff when he sailed through the slop at Monmouth Park.

"Some horses go up to Saratoga and get fat and lazy, and he was one of them," recalled Jimmy Jerkens. "When he got back from Saratoga, he perked up and began to train better. He went in and out of form; that's just the way he was."

Several contenders in the second Dirt Mile look to emulate Corinthian:

* Lewis Michael, who had issues with a front ankle last winter and spring, has raced just twice this year and comes off a 62-day layoff.

* Two Step Salsa ran four times at Hollywood Park's spring/summer meet, including a decision over Travers winner Colonel John in the Swaps, but the Pennsylvania Derby marks his only start in the 105 days between the Swaps and the Dirt Mile.

* My Pal Charlie won the Super Derby off a seven-week break and makes just his second start in 84 days.

* The also-eligibles are Slew's Tiznow, who would be off a 57-day layoff since winning the El Cajon in his only start at 3, and his 4-year-old full brother and stablemate, Slew's Tizzy, who has run once since February.

Lewis Michael, who is cross-entered in the Sprint and among nine Dirt Mile pre-entries cross-entered in five different Cup races, earned an automatic berth in the Sprint by winning the Pat O'Brien Handicap, but he has made 20 of 22 starts at a mile or longer. While the Dirt Mile is limited to 12 starters, five of the nine cross-entered have preference for other races, making it unlikely that anyone will be excluded.

The Pro-Ride surface may be huge for Lewis Michael, who was steadied repeatedly in the 2006 Sprint at Churchill Downs and was among those in Corinthian's wake last year when finishing a distant fifth.

"That was a nightmare - the track, the weather, the whole doggone thing," said Wayne Catalano, who said Lewis Michael was scheduled to ship from Keeneland on Sunday. "It was a nightmare for everyone except the winners."

Handicappers preferring horses with a recent race over the track may lean toward someone among the 1-3-4-8 finishers in the Goodwood: Well Armed, Albertus Maximus, Surf Cat, and Mast Track.