07/09/2007 11:00PM

$1 million rubber match


The score so far this year stands at one apiece. Asi Siempre finished second to Indian Vale's fourth on May 4 in the Louisville Handicap. Six weeks later, it was Indian Vale first, Asi Siempre second in the Fleur de Lis Handicap.

On Sunday, these two top-class mares take their rivalry to Delaware Park, where they figure to dominate the wagering - and quite possibly the race itself - in the $1 million Delaware Handicap.

Eight names passed the entry box when the Delaware Handicap, a 1 1/4-mile dirt race, was drawn Tuesday afternoon, but most are hardly household names. Promenade Girl finished a distant third to Take D' Tour last out in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont, and her high-water mark was a narrow win last year in the Molly Pitcher Stakes.

The top three finishers from the June 16 Obeah Handicap, the local prep for the Delaware Handicap, were Peak Maria's Way, Unbridled Belle (like Indian Vale from the Todd Pletcher stable), and Lila Paige, and all three are back in Sunday's race. Ice Cool Kitty will lend pace to the race, but has serious questions to answer regarding both class and distance. Daytime Promise has lost all eight of her 2007 starts.

Indian Vale was a budding star late in 2005, but her development was delayed by injury. She raced only once in 2006, but has come back well this year at age 5, easily winning the Next Move Handicap at Aqueduct in the first start of her comeback. She struggled over mud in the Louisville, but bounced back with a solid win in the Fleur de Lis, and should be well-suited to Sunday's distance.

Asi Siempre was a grass horse for most of her career, but she transferred her form to Polytrack last fall at Keeneland, winning the Grade 1 Spinster. She then showed she could be equally effective on dirt, finishing a troubled second in the Breeders' Cup Distaff to end her 2006 campaign.

Pletcher, well represented in Delaware's Saturday stakes, also has the likely favorite for Sunday's supporting feature, the Grade 3 Barbaro at 1 1/16 miles on dirt. King of the Roxy, who makes his first start since a sixth-place finish in the Preakness, figures to be favored over six rivals. The race also includes Tesio winner Xchanger, who got drummed in the Preakness, and an up-and-comer from the Graham Motion barn named Longley.

Sunday's two other stakes, the $200,000 Caesar Rodney and the $100,000 Light Hearted - both on the grass - drew huge, bettable fields.