05/07/2008 11:00PM

Barcola seeks stakes repeat


How much did a trip halfway around the world take out of Barcola?

That's the question handicappers must answer when they attempt to assess Barcola's chances to repeat in Saturday's $75,000 Brandywine Stakes at Delaware Park.

The 1 1/16-mile Brandywine was among three stakes Barcola captured locally while shipping in from New York for trainer Mark Hennig.

This time, however, circumstances are substantially different. Barcola, making his first start since December, was sent to Dubai for the Group 2 Godolphin Mile. After dueling for five furlongs, he backed up badly to finish 12th of 14.

He returns six weeks later, and based on a pair of recent works at Belmont Park, appears ready to pick up where he left off last season when he won the Brandywine, R.R.M. Carpenter, and Kelso, all in wire-to-wire fashion.

Statistically, however, Hennig is 0 for 8 with runners who made their last start outside the United States.

Among his nine rivals, Awfully Smart and Coyoteshighestcall pose the most serious threat to Barcola.

Awfully Smart, 8 for 9 lifetime at Delaware, will be making his first start since November. His trainer, Alan Goldberg, doesn't fare well with horses returning from extended layoffs in routes, with a 5-year record of 2 for 24, including a sixth-place finish from Awfully Smart. He was also beaten 4 1/2 lengths by Barcola as the even-money favorite in their only meeting last year.

The 6-year-old Coyoteshighestcall is the hot horse. He has reeled off six consecutive victories, including back-to-back Beyer Speed Figures of 103 and 104, for trainer Scott Lake. Although his streak has been compiled at Philadelphia Park, Charles Town, and Laurel Park, Coyoteshighestcall owns a 4-for-10 record at Delaware, including a 5 1/2-length romp in his last local appearance in October.

* The card also includes the first two turf races of the season, a high-priced optional claimer and a first-level allowance, both at 1 1/16 miles.