11/01/2007 11:00PM

Rivals look tops in Stymie

EmailAwfully Smart and Better Than Bonds, who have already gone head to head three times this season, will clash once more in Sunday's $55,000 Stymie Stakes, the closing-day feature at Delaware Park.

The 4-year-old Awfully Smart, trained by Alan Goldberg, narrowly prevailed over the 5-year-old Better Than Bonds in a high-priced optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles and the $100,000 Owners' Day Handicap at the same 1 1/8-mile distance as the Stymie.

Better Than Bonds finished 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Awfully Smart as the runner-up in the $97,000 R.R.M. Carpenter Memorial Handicap at 1 1/16 miles in July.

Although the two arch-rivals are both coming off fourth-place finishes, one race looks a lot better than the other.

Awfully Smart was beaten slightly more than three lengths in the Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup a month ago. Two of the horses who finished ahead of him, Diamond Stripes and Xchanger, competed on last weekend's Breeders' Cup program, although neither ran well.

Awfully Smart's Beyer Speed Figure of 100 for the nine-furlong Meadowlands Cup was right in line with the 101s he earned in his two wins over Better Than Bonds.

In contrast, Better Than Bonds pressed the pace and faded to finish fourth, more than 10 lengths behind the winner, in the $100,000 Kelso last time out.

Only one other horse in the field of seven appears capable of threatening the top pair. Delaware River returns from seven-week layoff in search of his fifth win in his last six starts. His only loss since April came when he was beaten a neck in an optional claimer on the turf.

The Maryland-based Delaware River won a pair of stakes restricted to Pennsylvania-breds this summer and brings along his regular rider, Horacio Karamanos.