08/16/2007 12:00AM

Iselin top two out to regroup off sound defeats

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Master Command and Papi Chullo both stepped up to Grade 1 handicaps last time out. Neither had a positive experience.

Master Command ran sixth at Churchill Downs in the Stephen Foster as the 8-5 favorite. Papi Chullo finished ninth in the Whitney at Saratoga.

The two 5-year-olds look to regroup Saturday in the Grade 3, $300,000 Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park.

The 1 1/8-mile race, named for one of Monmouth's founding fathers, drew a competitive field of eight.

Master Command ran well in two New Jersey appearances last year: a game third in the Iselin followed by a front-running victory in the Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup.

He started strongly this season, reeling off three consecutive graded victories before heading to the Foster on June 16. Nothing went right. He needed an emergency shoe repair in the paddock before the race and wound up in tight quarters on the first turn.

He has been training steadily since the Foster with trainer Todd Pletcher's Belmont Park division.

Papi Chullo joined the Gary Contessa barn earlier this year and immediately reeled off a pair of victories at Belmont. Contessa was extremely confident prior to the Whitney but came away

disappointed, saying Papi Chullo did not handle the surface.

"I'm going to chalk the Whitney up to a track he didn't like," Contessa said. "We're ready for the next one. He's training good."

Gottcha Gold breaks from post 2 and should ensure a lively pace. He scored a front-running win here last time in the Salvator Mile. He won by a neck, beating Lawyer Ron who went on to take the Whitney.

Gottcha Gold earned a career-best 108 Beyer Speed Figure in the Salvator, and he is the likely pace target once again.

Barcola figures to press the leader from the outside post

following consecutive pacesetting stakes victories at Delaware Park. He earned identical 105 Beyers in those wins, setting the stage for a swift pace scenario on Saturday.

Master Command and Papi Chullo start from posts 5 and 6, and have similar stalking styles.