06/11/2007 12:00AM

Rondo's mission is to relax

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Rondo, defeated at 1-5 in his last start, figures again to be a prohibitive favorite against four rivals in a second-level allowance race that serves as Wednesday's feature at Belmont Park.

Rondo, a son of Grand Slam, got hooked in a hot and heavy pace duel with Abraaj on Mayo23, and the two set things up for Bound Notebook to win from off the pace. Rondo got second by a head over Abraaj in a six-furlong race that was timed in 1:08.31. The opening half-mile fraction was 44.53 seconds.

Wednesday's race is at 6 1/2 furlongs, a distance at which Rondo won at Gulfstream when able to set a more controlled pace.

"He's not a Songster or Afrashad type that wants to blaze around there as fast as he can,'' said Godolphin Racing assistant trainer Rick Mettee, referring to a pair of Godolphin's stakes-winning sprinters. "He'd rather go 45 [seconds] and change and sit. Six-and-a-half will be better, he may need seven, and I think he'll stretch out to a mile.''

On paper, Rondo doesn't look to have an equal on the front end. He should get a chance to relax a little bit early under Edgar Prado.

Rondo's main rival figures to be Holy Canyon, a 3-year-old son of Holy Bull who has won his first two starts, both six-furlong races against older horses. In both races, Holy Canyon won from a stalking position.

Holy Canyon will run on Lasix for the first time after an endoscopic examination following his May 12 race showed a drop of blood and some mucus.

Trainer Allen Jerkens had thought about running Holy Canyon in last Saturday's Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup, but he wasn't pleased with how the colt worked prior to the race. On Saturday morning, however, Holy Canyon worked five furlongs in 58.04 seconds in preparation for this. Jerkens said the work was similar to the five-furlong gate move Holy Canyon put in prior to his maiden score at Aqueduct.

"He worked out of the gate that day, and the track wasn't as fast as it was [Saturday],'' Jerkens said. "If he could run good Wednesday, I'll be very happy."

Out of Gwedda scratched out of the Woody Stephens for this spot. He will be Billy Badgett's first starter as a trainer since November 2004.