10/02/2007 11:00PM

Exchanging Fire in strategic spot

EmailEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Exchanging Fire, one of the top stakes performers over the summer at Monmouth Park, looks to regroup Friday night in the $60,000 Honey Bee, one of three supporting stakes on the Meadowlands Cup card.

The 3-year-old filly posted a pair of impressive front-running victories in Monmouth's Without Feathers and Serena's Song Stakes. Those wins earned her a shot at the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks, where she set the pace, only to finish fourth.

"We were not discouraged after the Oaks," said Robb Levinsky, chairman of Kenwood Racing. "Out of character, Monmouth was not as speed-favoring that day as usual."

Chalking the Oaks up to a surface that compromised Exchanging Fire's aggressive style, Levinsky pressed on to the big objective: the Grade 2, $750,000 Fitz Dixon Cotillion Stakes on Sept 22 at her home track, Philadelphia Park, where Exchanging Fire chased the pace before fading to fifth.

The Honey Bee is her chance to start over, against lesser competition.

"Maybe at this point in time, she's not ready for that level," Levinsky said of Exchanging Fire, a onetime claimer. "We look forward to her bouncing back and running well in this spot."

A negative for Exchanging Fire is that she faces older fillies and mares in the mile-and-70-yard Honey Bee after four consecutive races against 3-year-olds.

Bayou's Lassie also exits a graded stakes, the Grade 3 Noble Damsel at Belmont Park on Sept. 15, where she battled to a narrow lead turning for home before fading to sixth.

Trainer Christophe Clement is switching the 4-year-old Bayou's Lassie back to dirt after seven straight grass races, including stakes wins last year at Calder in the Calder Oaks and the Grade 3 Frances A. Genter.

John Henry: Phil the Power facing elders

Turf marathoners take the stage in the $60,000 John Henry Stakes at 1 3/8 miles. The distance should be a good fit for Phil the Power after he rallied up the fence at the same distance and surface here on Sept. 14 in the Princeton Stakes for 3-year-olds.

Phil the Power will have to face older horses this time, including the 8-year-old Dubai Cat, always a pacesetting threat in long-distance grass races.

Midnight Express, a New Jersey-bred who thrives on turf, was a strong-closing second last time in a Meadowlands open allowance race.

Eillo: Joey P. back home

Joey P. did not have a good experience in his initial run on a synthetic surface, finishing sixth in the Karl Boyes Memorial at Presque Isle on Sept. 15.

The popular New Jersey-bred gelding, trained by Ben Perkins Jr., is back in his home state for the $65,000 Eillo at six furlongs.

Two races back, Joey P. earned a rallying win in the Friendly Lover Handicap against Jersey-breds on Aug. 26 at Monmouth.

Like Now is the probable favorite. The 2006 Gotham winner trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Like Now most recently hit the gate at the break at the start of the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga and finished last.

His prior race was a sharp allowance win at Saratoga.

Three runners in the Eillo - Herecomeshollywood, Bubba Gum, and Forest Park - were also cross-entered in Saturday's $55,000 Hockessin Stakes at Delaware Park.