08/01/2007 11:00PM

Shuk favorites mirror images


Any way you want to look at it, little separates Starvinsky and Fair Weather Stan.

They are 3-year-old geldings with sharp turf form, won their most recent start with nearly identical Beyer Speed Figures, and will break from adjoining stalls as the probable two betting favorites in Saturday's $75,000 Nick Shuk Memorial Stakes at Delaware Park.

The 1 1/16-mile grass race for 3-year-olds drew a field of 11, including two horses entered for the main track only.

Starvinsky has won his last three races, all on the turf, including a wire-to-wire romp over first-level allowance runners on July 18, a performance worth a Beyer Figure of 94.

Delaware's turf bias favoring front-runners may have enhanced Starvinsky's performance. In seven grass route races run during the race week of July 14-18, six of the seven winners were within two lengths of the lead after the first half-mile, including four front-runners.

Starvinsky, trained by Bruce Jackson, is versatile enough to win from off the pace, as he did in two starts last winter in Florida.

Fair Weather Stan, a much-improved runner who began 2007 running for a claiming price against nonwinners of two, has won 2 of his last 3. Most recently, Fair Weather Stan captured an overnight stakes at Calder on July 14, racing close to the pace throughout the 7o1/2-furlong race. He earned a career-best 92 Beyer for that two-length victory.

Like his key rival Starvinsky, Fair Weather Stan has shown he can win running on or close to the lead, or from the rear half of the pack, as he did when he closed from sixth of eight to clear his first-level allowance condition in May.

Handicappers looking for a price should consider a pair of runners from the high-percentage barns of Graham Motion and Michael Matz.

The Motion-trained La Neige won for the first time in six starts since coming from Europe last time out on July 1. Motion is 6 for 10 at Delaware the past two years with turf winners coming back off a brief layoff, including Rosinka, a two-time stakes winner locally this season.

Matz's horse So Amazing was second to Starvinsky in his United States debut 2 1/2 weeks ago. In grass races at Delaware since 2005, Matz is 5 for 18 (28 percent) with horses making their second start following a layoff.