04/26/2008 12:00AM

Timing, distance ideal for Indy Joe


A few more days of rest and an extra furlong were enough to convince trainer Mark Shuman that Tuesday's $75,000 Philmont Stakes at Philadelphia Park was the best option for his 3-year-old colt Indy Joe.

Shuman could have run Indy Joe for the same $75,000 purse against a smaller field in Saturday's Francis "Jock" LaBelle at Delaware Park, but decided to scratch.

Indy Joe will face six other 3-year-olds going seven furlongs in Tuesday's feature, rather than shortening up slightly in distance for the six-furlong LaBelle, which scratched down to four runners, including the Shuman-trained maiden filly Warm Climate.

Shuman said he liked the idea of bringing Indy Joe, who is based at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland, back to Philly Park, where he returned from a four-month layoff to win a first-level allowance by 1 1/2 lengths on April 7. Although Indy Joe earned a modest 73 Beyer Speed Figure, Shuman said he was impressed with the way Indy Joe, an Indy King colt, sat just off a hot pace and moved with authority when asked by jockey Eriluis Vaz.

Indy O., also a son of Indy King, set extremely fast fractions of 21.98 and 44.90 seconds through the first half-mile of the 6 1/2-furlong race. Indy Joe took command in midstretch and drew off while Indy O. faded to last.

Shuman said he suspects that Indy Joe, a Triple Crown nominee, will improve with more distance.

"I would like to stretch him back out," Shuman said. "He acts like he wants to go long. So trying seven-eighths is a good way to see if he's progressing in that direction. Plus, he gets a few more days off, and I think this field might be a little softer than the one at Delaware."

Indy Joe's two most dangerous rivals appear to be Johns Grooms and Agony.

Johns Grooms, trained by Steve Klesaris, owns the best last-race Beyer in the field, an 88 that he earned for his victory in a second-level optional $35,000 claimer on April 8. He just missed in his only previous try going seven furlongs and has not been worse than second in 6 of 7 lifetime starts.

Agony, a front-runner who drew the rail, dominated maidens in February, earning an 88 Beyer, but regressed when trainer Charles Robbins tried to stretch him out to 1 1/16 miles in his first try against winners. Agony comes back just 10 days later.