07/10/2004 12:00AM

Rock Hard Ten captures Swaps

Rock Hard Ten impresses in his first stakes win in the Swaps Breeders' Cup Stakes on Saturday at Hollywood Park.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Rock Hard Ten pushed his way back into the national 3-year-old picture with an impressive victory against a modest field in Saturday's $409,300 at Hollywood Park.

The race served as a confidence builder for Rock Hard Ten, who had finished second in the Preakness Stakes and fifth in the Belmont Stakes in the spring. The Grade 2 Swaps Stakes was his first stakes win in a six-race career that includes three wins and earnings of $630,380.

Rock Hard Ten ($3.20) finished 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.47. He had an ideal trip under Corey Nakatani.

Rock Hard Ten loaded well, after causing delays before the Preakness and Belmont because of his temperament. The race was delayed for three minutes after the longshot Brands Hatch lost his bridle. Brands Hatch did not get loose after being surrounded by the gate crew.

When the race began, Rock Hard Ten was second in a stalking position behind Boomzeeboom, who set an early pace of 23.48 and 47.07 seconds. Rock Hard Ten was within a length of the frontrunner until the final turn when Nakatani urged his mount.

Rock Hard Ten responded quickly. He took the lead in early stretch and pulled away without a threat from his rivals to win by 3 3/4 lengths.

"He certainly was impressive today," said Ernie Moody, who co-owns Rock Hard Ten with Madeleine Paulson.

"He laid back in a nice position and was galloping comfortably. When the turn came, he took off and left Boomzeeboom in the dist. It was a perfect ride."

Suave, the winner of the Northern Dancer Stakes at Churchill Downs last month, rallied from fourth to finish second, three lengths clear of Boomzeeboom in the field of six 3-year-olds. Suave and Boomzeeboom, who won the Affirmed Handicap here last month, were the only stakes winners in the field.

Rock Hard Ten could start in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August, though Moody and trainer Jason Orman said no plans have been set.

"We've asked a lot of the horse and he hasn't disappointed us," Orman said.