06/25/2008 11:00PM

Lord Snowden tries softer spot


Trainer Tony Dutrow continues to be amazed by Lord Snowdon.

The 5-year-old gelding gets another chance to impress Dutrow Saturday in the $200,000 Donald Levine Memorial Handicap at Philadelphia Park.

In his most recent start, Lord Snowdon dropped 16 lengths off the pace before rallying for third behind Divine Park and Commentator in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on Memorial Day at Belmont Park.

"Amazingly enough, he came out of that race very well," Dutrow said. "I say amazingly because this horse has never had a break, and he keeps running one good race after another. I don't understand it. It just doesn't make any sense, but I'd say he's as good as ever."

Since joining the Dutrow barn last summer, Lord Snowdon has compiled a record of 4-2-1 in 9 starts.

This is an easier spot for Lord Snowdon, who has run triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in the last three races. Prior to the Met Mile, Lord Snowdon twice chased the undefeated Bustin Stones, missing by a head in the Grade 2 General George Stakes at Laurel and finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap Aqueduct.

"Not that there aren't horses of quality in here, but the competition is less than he has been facing lately," Dutrow said.

For an ungraded race, the seven-furlong Levine drew a very solid field, including three horses who most recently ran in Grade 1 races: Lord Snowdon, High Finance (De Francis Memorial at Pimlico), and Xchanger (Pimlico Special).

As the old cliche advises, pace makes the race, and that is especially true for Lord Snowdon, who has fallen 10 or more lengths off the pace in every race this year.

"He seems to be taking himself well out of the race this year," Dutrow said. "It's nothing we planned. In talking to the jockeys after the races, they say that's where he takes them. So, we need to have pace and I think we'll get that."

The last four races by Xchanger ended in resounding defeats, but trainer Mark Shuman can excuse them all.

The Pimlico Special and the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Monmouth Park were run on wet tracks that Xchanger hates. He didn't take to the synthetic surface at Keeneland for the Commonwealth Stakes, either, Shuman said.

Shuman chalks up Xchanger's effort in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile last November at Aqueduct to fatigue at the end of a 10-race season.

"He's coming up to this race in good shape." Shuman said. "We're looking forward to a fast track, but I might change my mind if it rains."

Shuman is encouraged by the return to Philadelphia Park, where Xchanger lost by only neck after being carried very wide last September in the Pennsylvania Derby.

"It's time to stop making excuses," Shuman said. "Let's just hope for a fast track."

Completing the field are Spirit of Gulch, Wild Geese, Whistle Pig, and Eternal Star.

Noonmark has been entered in this race, and in the $125,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap Saturday night at Prairie Meadows.

* So Much Ease, 2 for 2 on the Philadelphia Park turf last year, makes her season debut in the $75,000 Caught in the Rain Handicap for Pennsylvania-bred fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.