08/09/2001 11:00PM

A pair of light heavies squaring off

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PHOENIX - It may not be Hagler-Hearns, with Kona Gold and Caller One staying in the barn this weekend. But Cuevas-Duran was pretty good, and we may get a similar show in Sunday's Grade 2 Pat O'Brien Handicap at Del Mar. The seven-furlong race has lured Swept Overboard and El Corredor, who may be ready for their own shot at the belt.

Here's a tale of the tape:

Talent

Swept Overboard made a splash as a 2-year-old for John Shirreffs. Things didn't quite pan out, but it can no longer be said that Swept Overboard is more potential than results.

After feeling the wrath of Caller One and Dixie Union in the Laz Barrera in May 2000, he was sold as part of Marshall Naify's dispersal and ended up in the care of trainer Craig Dollase, who was so deft in handling champion sprinter Reraise a few years ago. After a few months off, Swept Overboard emerged at Del Mar with a monstrous win.

But he wasn't seen again until this June at Hollywood. He lost a nose decision in a turf sprint, then won another turf sprint for fun. That set him up for a ride on the wild side July 22 - taking on Kona Gold and Caller One in the Grade 2 Bing Crosby. At 9-2, he was an excellent third, beaten just 1 1/4 lengths in the final strides. That effort showed he is not far behind the best sprinters around.

El Corredor made jaws drop with a romping maiden win in October 1999. He wasn't seen again until January 2000. After an allowance win, he scored an optional claiming win and a romp in the Grade 2 Del Mar BC Handicap. Then trainer Bob Baffert sent him to Belmont for the Grade 2 Jerome Handicap. He ran huge but couldn't cope with Fusaichi Pegasus. Still, Albert the Great and Hook and Ladder ended up well behind. And to show it was no fluke, he came back two months later for an easy win in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile, leaving the Peeping Tom, Affirmed Success, Golden Missile, and More Than Ready in his wake.

Foot problems have prevented him from racing since, but the quality is certainly known.

Advantage: El Corredor

Speed

With five wins in seven starts, El Corredor isn't really a sizzler. He has speed, but in a race like this, where the pace figures to be brisk, he should fall in just behind. It's not his blistering speed but his sustained speed that makes him so effective. He's more like Kona Gold than Caller One.

Swept Overboard, meanwhile, may have more raw speed. He was a few lengths off the pace in the Crosby, but that's because it was Caller One who was doing the early flying.

Without Caller One, Swept Overboard's speed may mean he will be the pacesetter, particularly as veteran Lexicon is no longer the speed merchant he once was.

Advantage: Swept Overboard

Racing surface

El Corredor is 2 for 3 at Del Mar, the one loss coming in his debut. He can certainly be excused for that hiccup. Swept Overboard, meanwhile, is one for two at Del Mar - he won an optional claimer there last year by almost six, and you have the third in the Bing Crosby.

Advantage: None

Distance

The only time Swept Overboard has tried seven furlongs, he got beaten. But that effort came in the Barrera in May 2000, and he got beaten by Caller One and Dixie Union, two extremely good horses. When he won the San Pedro as a 3-year-old last year, he did so by more than five lengths. The way he pulled away, and the way he kept to his task in the six-furlong Crosby indicate the seven-furlong distance shouldn't be a problem. It may not, however, be his strength.

El Corredor, meanwhile, would seem to have been at a significant disadvantage chasing Swept Overboard at six furlongs. But at seven furlongs he should be much more at home.

He's 2 for 3 beyond 6 1/2 furlongs - the one loss by three-quarters of a length Fusaichi Pegasus in the Jerome.

Advantage: El Corredor

Conditioning

El Corredor hasn't run since his Cigar Mile win last November. Can he take that kind of inactivity - great works and all - and be ready for his best? That's asking a lot. Still, he may be one of the most talented horses in the country, and he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Baffert knows a thing or two about getting his horses ready off a long layoff, but does he really want to go to the bottom here with the Breeders' Cup Sprint and the Cigar Mile looming?

Swept Overboard would appear to have every edge in current form. He's had three races since his long layoff, including the Bing Crosby. And it's the Crosby that's a bit worrisome.

What does he have left after such a huge effort against Kona Gold and Caller One? The Crosby was July 22 - has he had enough time to recover?

He hasn't been one to string many races together and hold his form. Can he afford any kind of regression and still beat El Corredor?

Advantage: Swept Overboard.

Summary

As good as El Corredor is, the layoff is a concern, particularly after all the foot troubles. The lone negative attached to Swept Overboard actually might not be a negative at all. There's simply the fear that he will feel ill effects from the Crosby - we know El Corredor is coming off the layoff and has foot problems.

El Corredor may be the better horse, but Swept Overboard looks like the one who can land the punches that count the most.