07/03/2007 12:00AM

Surface switches look key


Two veteran geldings returning to the main track after one race on turf may hold the key to Thursday night's $45,000 Watching Warning Stakes at Penn National.

The 6-year-old Delaware River, who earned the first triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure of his 45-race career the last time he raced on dirt, and 7-year-old R. Earl, who will seek to repeat a surface-switch pattern that worked well twice last season, are prime contenders in the 1 1/16-mile race for Pennsylvania-breds.

Delaware River, based in Maryland with trainer Bill Campbell, was awarded a Beyer Figure of 104 for his 5o3/4-length win against open company in a high-priced optional claimer at Pimlico on April 19. He may have gotten an ideal trip that day, sitting behind a six-furlong time of 1:11.51 that was nearly two seconds faster than three other dirt routes run on that day's card.

Last time out, Delaware River appeared to bounce, regressing to a 78 Beyer, but still managed to finish second as the 9-5 favorite in a turf route. Horatio Karamanos, who has been aboard for Delaware River's last two races, is coming up from Maryland to retain the mount.

Delaware River will run uncoupled from his stablemate Grey Dorian, a 4-year-old who has won 5 of his last 7 starts, mostly against claiming company.

R. Earl has a pair of fourths in his only two starts this year. Last July, he went dirt to turf to win the Iroquois Handicap at Philadelphia Park. Three months later, he made the same surface switch and missed by a nose in an allowance route at Philly.

Obi Wan, part of an uncoupled entry for trainer Eberd Estrada, is a threat to steal the race as the best pure speed horse in the field of eight. Obi Wan has been off for two months, but went wire to wire in his last start on dirt in early April.

Trainer Scott Lake, winning at a 30 percent clip at Penn National, must be respected with Bombay, who has won two of his last three starts in the allowance ranks at Philadelphia Park.