08/10/2007 12:00AM

Next step for Exchanging Fire


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Robb Levinsky, the chairman of Kenwood Racing, mapped out a four-race schedule of increasingly difficult challenges for former claimer Exchanging Fire.

Already successfully halfway through the program, Exchanging Fire takes the next step - the biggest of her career - Sunday in the Grade 3, $200,000 Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks.

"We know when you run in a Grade 3 for $200,000, they're not going to be easy," Levinsky said. "We feel we have the best horse, and now it's up to her to go out there and prove it."

Claimed for $50,000 at Gulfstream Park on March 2, Exchanging Fire posted dominant front-running wins in consecutive overnight stakes here to sweep the first two legs of the plan.

At each step, Levinsky looked for a sign of weakness, an indication the goals were too ambitious.

"This has been a plan we laid out from the beginning," Levinsky said. "If she could prove she was viable at each stage, she would go to the next step. Trainer Steve Mick tells me she's doing better now than she was coming into the last race."

That last race was a commanding 2o3/4-length win in the Serena's Song Stakes on July 21.

By answering each challenge, Exchanging Fire has moved steadily toward the ultimate destination: the Grade 2, $500,000 Fitz Dixon Cotillion Handicap on Sept. 22 at Philadelphia Park. To get there, Exchanging Fire needs to run well against five Oaks rivals going 1 1/16 miles.

Talkin About Love is one of the interesting challengers. A New Jersey-bred, Talkin About Love is unbeaten in four starts here this summer. She stretched out for the first time in her most recent race, a second-level allowance, and responded with a 10-length victory.

This will be her first appearance in a graded stakes as she tries to become the first New Jersey-bred Oaks winner since the new Monmouth opened in 1946.

"Now it's time to find out what we really have," owner Gerry Sleeter said. "You never know until you try."

Stewart Elliott will ride.

Lady Marlboro and Adhrhythm, third and fourth in the Serena's Song, return for another shot at Exchanging Fire.

Leading rider Joe Bravo has the return call on Lady Marlboro. Chuckie Lopez rides Adhrhythm.

Scooter Girl, a first-level allowance winner in the slop at Calder last time out, makes her stakes debut, while Suzy Smart stretches out beyond seven furlongs for the first time.