07/12/2007 11:00PM

King of the Roxy no underdog now


King of the Roxy has gone from being the hunter to the hunted.

A 14-1 chance when he finished sixth behind Curlin and Street Sense in the Preakness Stakes in his most recent start, King of the Roxy figures to be the favorite Sunday at Delaware Park in the Grade 3, $300,000 Barbaro Stakes, one of three supporting events on the Delaware Handicap program.

The Barbaro, which drew seven entries, is contested at 1 1/16 miles, and the race's distance may be at the outer limit of what King of the Roxy really wants to do. While he finished second in the Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles, King of the Roxy appeared to run out of gas late in that race, and his biggest wins have come at seven and 7 1/2 furlongs.

"In real life, there's very little difference between the distance of seven furlongs or a mile and a sixteenth," said Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor International, the group that owns King of the Roxy. "Usually if you can do one you can do the other. The big question is the two turns."

The two turns may not be a problem in the Barbaro, since King of the Roxy might hold an inherent talent edge on his rivals. Most of them, at least. An interesting alternative to the favorite is Longley, who has quietly won 4 of 6 career starts. Trained by Graham Motion, Longley won his career debut last summer at Saratoga in a maiden race rained off grass, didn't race again until the Gulfstream meet, and needed a couple of starts to get into rhythm. Longley narrowly won a Pimlico entry-level allowance race to get back in the win column, then moved far forward in his two most recent starts, both at Delaware. After easily winning a second-level allowance race, Longley scored by more than four in the local stakes prep for the Barbaro.

Longley is drawn on the outside, King of the Roxy on the fence, but both could get a decent setup. Xchanger, beaten 25 lengths in the Preakness, figures to go to the front, but should have company from Phone Home, Blake Point, and Hal's My Hope.

Irwin said that the main summer goal for King of the Roxy is the Grade 1, seven-furlong King's Bishop Stakes at Saratoga. "Overall I think he's going to be more of a one-turn, seven-eighths horse," Irwin said.

But that might not matter this time.

Caesar Rodney: Race ripe for closer

The first thing you notice perusing the form of the $200,000 Caesar Rodney Stakes is that the field seems to go on forever: There are 12 horses in the main body of the Rodney, which is carded for 1 1/16 miles on grass, with Shake the Bank - Better Talk Now's old rabbit - stuck on the also-eligible list, and Morine's Victory entered for the main track only.

The next thing that becomes apparent is that a preponderance of the entrants like to race on or near the early lead. The whole thing could set up perfectly for the Grade 1 winner Host, but there's a catch: Host was also entered in the Poker Handicap at Belmont, and as of early Friday afternoon, his trainer, Todd Pletcher, hadn't chosen a spot.

But Host, even if he starts, is only one among a host of contenders. Seven-year-old Silver Tree still has life in his legs, and has won 2 of 4 starts this season. He is trained by Bill Mott. Ballast could be ready to resume his winning ways while making his second start after a five-month layoff. Defer has shown signs of being good enough to win a race like this.

And that is only scratching the surface of the Rodney's depth.

Light Hearted: 'Fancy' the favorite

Smart and Fancy has made only one start on turf, but it was enough to make her a solid favorite in the $100,000 Light Hearted, a five-furlong grass sprint that drew 11 entries.

Smart and Fancy already had won 8 of her 13 starts before trainer Tony Dutrow gave her a try on turf on May 28 in the Turf Amazon Handicap at Delaware Park, and the surface switch appeared to elevate Smart and Fancy's game. She rated nicely behind a couple of front-runners, moved up easily when asked to run, and went on to a 2 1/2-length win.

The danger for Smart and Fancy is that she shows just enough speed to get hung wide on the turn from post 9, but jockey Ramon Dominguez has not won 27 percent of his races this year by failing to plan for such potential trouble before it happens.