12/18/2010 2:08PM

Three sharp front-runners hard to separate in Southampton

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Eminent Tale and Royal Currier, both coming off front-running stakes victories in New York, will face Fort Hughes, a wire-to-wire winner of a fast maiden race in his lone start, in one of two $75,000 stakes for 2-year-olds on Tuesday’s card at Parx Racing.

Eminent Tale, Royal Currier, and Fort Hughes top a line-up seven colts and geldings in the six-furlong Southampton, which goes as race 9 on a 10-race card. Coax Liberty, good enough to pick up small pieces of the purse in a pair of graded stakes in New York, looks much the best among five 2-year-old fillies in the co-featured six-furlong Brandywine (race 6).

Among the trio of front-runners in the Southampton, Fort Hughes, a Darley Stable homebred trained by Kiarian McLaughlin, owns the best Beyer Speed Figure, a 91 for his 5 1/4-length score in his career debut on Oct. 10 at Belmont Park. The runner-up from that race, Rift, returned to earn a 91 Beyer in his next start, a second-place finish against maidens. The fourth-place horse, King Congie, came back to defeat maidens going two turns on turf, an indication that Fort Hughes beat a pretty talented group.

Eminent Tale, trained by Rick Dutrow, most recently crushed fellow New York-breds in the Great White Way division of the New York Stallion Series at Aqueduct a month ago. He was awarded a 76 Beyer for his 7 3/4-length victory.

Royal Currier, based locally with trainer Patricia Farro, comes off a 2 1/2-length triumph worth an 85 Beyer, facing just three rivals, in an overnight stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 31.

If the need-the-lead types battle each other into defeat, Unleash the Humor could benefit. A stalker who is part of a Mark Shuman-trained coupling with Sky Wars, Unleash the Humor comes off a first-level allowance win at Penn National, a key race in which two other horses came back to win their next starts.

◗ Coax Liberty comes into the Brandhywine off a 2 3/4-length victory in a first-level allowance. Her 80 Beyer is 20 points higher than the next best last-out figure in Tuesday’s race. During the summer, Coax Liberty ran well enough to get third in the Grade 2 Adirondack and fourth in the Grade 1 Spinaway, both at Saratoga.

Her chief rival looks like Doing Great, whose 2-for-3 record includes a win in the Maryland Million Lassie at Laurel Park.