06/20/2001 11:00PM

Burning Roma to take on top 3-year-olds

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It looks like Burning Roma will finally get a chance to show how he rates against the top 3-year-old colts in the country.

After months of facing second- and third-tier competition, Burning Roma could be tested against the cream of his crop early in the Saratoga meet.

Trainer Anthony Dutrow is leaning toward running Burning Roma, a 9 3/4-length winner of last weekend's $200,000 Leonard Richards Stakes at Delaware Park, in the Grade 1, $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes on Aug. 4.

Among the possible horses for the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy are Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, and A P Valentine, runner-up to Point Given in the Preakness and Belmont.

Burning Roma, winner of 7 of 10 lifetime starts, earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 114 in the Richards - beating Preakness also-rans Bay Eagle, Griffinite, and Marciano - by covering 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.41. His time was .80 of a second slower than Spectacular Bid ran in the same race in 1980.

Dutrow, who reported that Burning Roma came out of the race in excellent shape, called his colt's effort "the most impressive performance by a horse I have ever trained."

Dutrow leads all trainers with three stakes wins at the Delaware meet. In addition to the Richards, Dutrow took the opening-day Peach Blossom Stakes with Lil Punkindo and the Susan's Girl Stakes with Strike It Up.

Iwinski finds another gem

Trainer Allen Iwinski may have struck gold again at the claiming box.

Iwinski has had good luck taking claimers and developing them into stakes winners. Last year, for example, Her Halo won the Nastique Stakes and Obeah Handicap at this track.

His latest diamond in the rough could be Stauch, a 3-year-old he claimed for $25,000 last December at Calder.

Since switching from dirt to grass, Stauch has won twice, most recently a six-length romp over 10 allowance foes on June 9.

"We expect good things out of this colt," said Iwinski. "When we claimed him, we were waiting to run him on the grass all along. At Calder, he ran for $25,000 maidens, but the condition eligibility at Gulfstream is $45,000 or less. So we ran him on the dirt a couple of times to keep him fit and tried to teach him something going long.

"In one race, we tried to get him to close a little bit on the dirt, and I think he got the idea because the next time we got to run him on the grass at Hialeah and he won in a romp. He has just continued to progress."

Crystal Sea on the fence

Crystal Sea is entered in Sunday's $100,000 Obeah Stakes, the final local prep for next month's Grade 3 Delaware Handicap. Don't be surprised if she scratches, however.

Trainer Robert Leonard said he's uncertain whether to run the 4-year-old Crystal Sea in the Obeah at 1 1/8 miles or a six-furlong allowance sprint next Wednesday.

That's not the only decision Leonard must make. He's also debating whether Crystal Sea's next major objective will be the $600,000 Delaware Handicap at 1 1/4 miles or the $75,000 Light Hearted Stakes at six furlongs. Both races are July 22.

Crystal Sea, a disappointing sixth in the Just a Game Handicap in New York earlier this month, has won 5 of 15 lifetime starts.

* Jockey Mike McCarthy will resume riding Saturday. The track's five-time leading rider, McCarthy has been sidelined with broken ribs sustained when his mount, Live Wire Lil, collapsed from apparent heat exhaustion shortly after the eighth race on June 5.

* In an attempt to produce bigger fields, owners of all horses in a race with eight or more uncoupled starters will receive a $1,000 bonus next month. The owners' bonus will be paid over the 18-day period of the fourth condition book from July 7-31.