07/11/2008 12:00AM

Roman Emperor ready to go


One colt who has already won a stakes named in honor of Barbaro and another with direct ties to the 2006 Kentucky Derby champion are among the contenders in a field of six 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles in Sunday's Grade 3 Barbaro Stakes at Delaware Park.

The $300,000 Barbaro along with the $200,000 Caesar Rodney for older males on turf and the $100,000 Light Hearted for filly and mare turf sprinters are the supporting stakes on a card anchored by the $1 million Delaware Handicap.

Roman Emperor, the 5-2 favorite on the track's morning line, has been freshened since winning Pimlico's version of the Barbaro by a half-length on the Preakness undercard. His effort looks even better after the runner-up, Da' Tara, came back to upset the Belmont Stakes. The fifth-place finisher, Wesley, also returned to win his next start, an allowance on turf at Belmont Park.

Previously, Roman Emperor finished seventh in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 5.

"Things just did not go right for him that day," said trainer Steve Klesaris. "He was rank and he got pinched off in a spot. A couple things went wrong early in the race, and he just did not respond well for whatever reason. Sometimes that just happens."

Klesaris said he expects Roman Emperor to run well Sunday.

"He is coming into the race very well," said Klesaris. "All systems are on go, and we expect a big effort from him."

Ready Set is trained by Michael Matz and owned by the Lael Stables of Roy and Gretchen Jackson, the connections of Barbaro. An $800,000 purchase at the Keeneland yearling sale in September 2006, Ready Set has 2 wins and 2 seconds in 4 starts at Delaware. He may be ready to move forward in the third start of his form cycle after basically pairing up Beyer Speed Figures of 92 and 90 in two races since he shipped north following a three-race winter campaign in Florida.

Cherokee Artist, who won his maiden over a deep field at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day and followed up with a solid second in the Grade 2 Ohio Derby, looks formidable in this spot, but as of midweek trainer Graham Motion was on the fence about running. Motion said he may elect to wait for the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Racetrack on Aug. 2 or an allowance race.

Caesar Rodney: Silver Tree defending

The old-timer Silver Tree still appears good enough to defend his title in the Caesar Rodney (race 9), which has been changed from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/8 miles.

A year ago, the Bill Mott-trained Silver Tree scored by a length as the 3-5 favorite. He has been freshened to await this spot since winning the Grade 3 Fort Marcy Handicap at Aqueduct in late April.

Class-wise, Shake the Bank and Interpatation fit well after facing a steady diet of graded stakes competition, but they are a combined 1 for 21 the past two seasons.

Shake the Bank, best known as the rabbit for stablemate Better Talk Now, remains eligible for a third-level allowance. He was fourth, beaten slightly more than two lengths, after setting the pace in last year's Rodney.

Interpatation, a deep closer, has lost six in a row since taking the Larry Riviello President's Cup at Philadelphia Park last September. There's not a lot of early speed besides Shake the Bank in the Rodney, and Delaware's turf course generally is not kind to closers.

Light Hearted: Short-priced favorite

Smart and Fancy, favored in seven of her last eight starts, figures to be a short price once again in the five-furlong Light Hearted.

A 1 1/2-length winner as the 4-5 choice in this race last year, Smart and Fancy comes off a four-length score as the 8-5 favorite in the $60,000 Buckland at Colonial Downs three weeks ago.

The only one of her six opponents - two of whom have never run on grass - who appears fast enough to threaten Smart and Fancy is the

7-year-old Weeks. Trained by Mike Pino, Weeks is 4 for 5 in turf sprints, including the Witches Brew at the Meadowlands last fall. Usually a stalker, Weeks changed tactics last time and led until late in the seven-furlong Caress at Belmont Park.