07/17/2009 12:00AM

Denver steps up for Barbaro

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Bill Denver/Equiphotos
Julia Tuttle will shorten up to 7 1/2 furlongs for Sunday's $75,000 Light Hearted Stakes.

A pair of 3-year-old colts sired by 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus will try to establish a name for themselves in Sunday's Grade 3, $150,000 Barbaro Stakes at Delaware Park.

The 1 1/16-mile Barbaro, which drew a full field of 12 evenly matched 3-year-olds, goes as race 8 on a 12-race card highlighted by the $1 million Delaware Handicap.

With only two horses in the Barbaro field who have even placed at the graded level and just three others who have won a minor stakes, Sunday's race looked like a good spot for Denver to make his stakes debut and Sumo to return to action for the first time in four months.

Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out Denver, who steps up after winning his maiden and clearing his first allowance condition in back-to-back starts locally in May.

"He is two for two for at Delaware, so we decided after the last allowance race to sit back and point for this spot," Pletcher said. "It is a big step up in competition, but he has run well enough and trained well enough to show us he deserves a chance at it."

Sumo, a Kentucky-bred trained by Graham Motion, has not raced since finishing ninth of 10 in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby on March 14. Previously, he ran second in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes.

"He ran huge in the prep for the Tampa Derby. He beat some horses that went on to run in the Kentucky Derby," Motion said. "The Tampa Bay Derby was little bit of a mystery for me, but we just thought after that race we would give him a break. I have had this race in the back of my mind for some time."

The field also includes an uncoupled pair from trainer Larry Jones's barn. It Happened Again and Doc's Friend ran one-two on July 5, facing older horses in a high-priced third-level optional claimer.

"When a young horse can beat older horses that makes me feel really good about them," Jones said. "We have been real high on It Happened Again for a long time, and Doc's Friend has really become our now horse. He has really picked up his game since getting back to Delaware Park."

Light Hearted: Top pair shorten up

Shortening up from 1 1/8 miles to 7 1/2 furlongs and a slight class drop may be all that either Julia Tuttle or Precious Princess needs to secure their first career stakes win.

Julia Tuttle and Precious Princess are part of a wide-open field of 12 fillies and mares that will contest the $75,000 Light Hearted Stakes. Precious Princess is cross-entered in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Robert Dick Memorial.

Julia Tuttle, trained by Ferris Allen, held a three-length lead three weeks ago in the Grade 3 All Along at Colonial Downs before fading in deep stretch. She surrendered a 10-length lead in the final furlong of last year's Grade 3 Virginia Oaks.

Precious Princess, just 1 for 9 on turf, won a one-mile allowance at Keeneland before racing second for most of the way in the All Along until folding late.

Others with a shot include Miss Challenge, winner of a minor stakes in New York last fall who makes her first start since October; Drop a Line, who so far has been unable to transfer her good synthetic form to turf; and Wilderness Trace, a winner in her first start since last September over the Delaware turf course three weeks ago.

The Light Hearted was lengthened in distance this year after being contested as a five-furlong turf sprint the past two seasons. Prior to that, it was a six-furlong race on dirt.

* Sunday's stakes will be shown live on both HRTV and TVG.