11/09/2007 12:00AM

Red Zipper again faces Pa Pa Da

EmailOZONE PARK, N.Y. - Last year, Red Zipper won the Cormorant division of the New York Stallion Stakes at juicy odds of 10-1 as he fended off a game Pa Pa Da to record a victory in his stakes debut.

Sunday, when the Cormorant is run for the seventh time, Red Zipper will be the horse to beat, with Pa Pa Da - who won this race in 2004 - again his chief rival. A field of 11 was entered in the $75,000 Cormorant, scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

The Cormorant is one of six New York Stallion Stakes to be run Sunday at Aqueduct. Add in the rescheduled Grade 3 Long Island Handicap as well as the Smart Angle, an overnight event, and eight of the nine races offered Sunday are stakes.

Red Zipper entered last year's Cormorant as an improving 3-year-old who seemed to take a step forward once trainer John Morrison put him on turf.

"He'd been improving all fall, and we wondered how he would stack up against stakes horses, and he held his own," Morrison said. "He confirmed that with his form this year."

Red Zipper began his 4-year-old season with a victory in the Kingston Handicap at Belmont. Though he has lost four straight races since then, he has certainly been competitive against statebred competition.

Red Zipper was beaten a neck when he ran fourth in the Ashley T. Cole on Sept. 16, then tired to fourth, beaten 2 3/4 lengths, in the Mohawk Handicap run on soft ground last month at Belmont.

"The last two have been puzzlers," Morrison said. "But he breezed a whole lot better this week than he had going into the last two."

Turning back to 1 1/16 miles may be a plus for Red Zipper, who usually runs on or near the lead.

Red Zipper will have to tote 124 pounds under Eibar Coa, a concession of two to eight pounds to the field.

Pa Pa Da is winless in his last 15 starts dating to back to the spring of 2005, but he has shown an affinity for Aqueduct's turf, where he has 2 wins and 2 seconds from 5 starts. Pa Pa Da will break from post 11 under Jose Espinoza.

"He's always run good at Aqueduct. He's happy and doing okay," trainer David Donk said. "The question is how good Red Zipper is."

Hammock steps into stakes company for the first time after going gate to wire to win a statebred first-level allowance turf race two months ago at Belmont.