08/05/2004 12:00AM

Tough to contrast favorites


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Lion Heart and Rock Hard Ten, the two leading horses in the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational, will break side by side Sunday in the premier event of the summer at Monmouth Park.

On paper, little separates the two favorites in the 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds. Lion Heart, the Kentucky Derby runner-up, will be the starting highweight at 121 pounds, one more than Rock Hard Ten.

The difference in the morning line was also paper-thin. Lion Heart is the 9-5 favorite over Rock Hard Ten, who is at 2-1. Lion Heart drew post 4 and will be ridden by Joe Bravo, Monmouth's leading jockey.

"I think as long as you are in the middle, it's good," said Patrick Biancone, who trains Lion Heart. "I mean, I would have no complaint with 4 or 5. I don't think it will change the race."

Rock Hard Ten got the 5 hole with Corey Nakatani aboard.

"It's a good spot for him," said trainer Jason Orman. "Corey can figure out what the pace is going to be. He can put him where he needs to be from there."

The two Haskell favorites are both coming off victories.

Lion Heart scored a hard-fought victory over My Snookie's Boy in Monmouth's Grade 3 Long Branch Stakes. Rock Hard Ten captured the Grade 2 Swaps Breeders' Cup Stakes at Hollywood Park.

The Haskell field swelled to nine after the unexpected entries of Pollard's Vision and Swingforthe-fences.

Pollard's Vision has also been entered in the Grade 3, $600,000 West Virginia Derby on Saturday at Mountaineer Park and is expected to run in that spot.

Eibar Coa was named to ride Pollard's Vision in both stakes. Coa has taken off all Saturday mounts at Monmouth in anticipation of making the trip to Mountaineer. Pollard's Vision got post 8 for the Haskell at 5-1.

Coa was also named to ride Wimplestiltskin, a 20-1 shot in post 6 who is Coa's likely Haskell mount.

Swingforthefences, winner of the Iowa Derby, drew post 9.

"We're not thrilled with that, to be honest," said trainer Rick Violette. "There's a dangerous chance of being put in the middle of the racetrack if things don't go your way."

Swingforthefences was expected to also be entered in Sunday's Jim Dandy at Saratoga.

My Snookie's Boy has the rail at 8-1, with Stewart Elliott riding for trainer Allen Iwinski.

Trainer Nick Zito entered an uncoupled pair: Pies Prospect, who breaks from post 2 at 15-1, with Chuckie Lopez aboard, and Royal Assault, who breaks from post 3 at6-1, with Pat Day aboard.

Tap Day, trained by Mark Hennig, drew post 7 at 20-1, with Jose Velez Jr. set to ride.