07/20/2006 11:00PM

First try at distance for all seven in derby

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AURORA, Colo. - All seven entrants in Sunday's $25,000-added Colorado Derby have yet to be tested at the 1 1/16-mile distance, making it an interesting handicapping affair. Favoritism will likely be split between a pair of recent stakes winners here in Skip's Bet, winner of the Ruffian Handicap, and Sunday Romeo, the Inaugural Handicap winner.

Skip's Bet, who has turned in only one bad outing in five career starts, merits the slight call. She is one of two fillies in the lineup and is coming off a redeeming score in the Ruffian. That followed a bad outing in the Inaugural, in which she finished 10th and last, beaten by 28 1/2 lengths.

Skip's Bet trained well for James Jones after the Inaugural and came back with a widening 6 1/2-length victory in the Ruffian, run over a sloppy surface. She was never headed in the seven-furlong race and won under mild urging in posting her third score, all for breeder-owner Willard Burbach. Her two other victories, the trial and final of the Colorado Breeders Lassie, were ridden-out affairs last season.

Skip's Bet, by Skip Away, is bred to take on the added distance, and her front-running style should make it tough for her opponents to catch her if she's loose on the lead. Russell Vicchrilli, who has ridden Skip's Bet in all her victories, has the return call.

Sunday Romeo, who is going after his third straight score on Sunday, was impressive in the six-furlong Inaugural. He drew off to win by 2 1/2 lengths against a solid group of 3-year-olds for trainer Harold Thurston. In his first score of the season, he drew clear by two lengths in Albuquerque this spring against $15,000 claimers who had not won two races.

Sunday Romeo is by the Japanese-bred sire Eishin Masamune, a son of the late Sunday Silence. Sunday Romeo was bred by Nye Brookover and is trained by Jay Holden.

Sunday Romeo posted a series of bullet works prior to the Inaugural on June 11, but hasn't had an official work since. He will again be ridden by Jose Torres.

The Gleason brothers, Kenneth and Ty, each have runners in here that merit consideration. Ty Gleason will saddle Silverbella, fresh off a hard-fought maiden win over a muddy track. Kenneth Gleason will send out three-time winner The Company Van.