Trainer Patrick Biancone nominated two juvenile colts to Saturday's 98th running of the $200,000 Hopeful (gr. I), either of which would figure to go off the favorite. Instead of running both Michael Tabor's Zavata and Fabien Ouaki's Whywhywhy, Biancone will saddle Zavata in the seven-furlong Hopeful and wait for the mile Futurity (gr. I) at Belmont on Sept. 15 with Whywhywhy.
Zavata established himself as the horse to beat in the Hopeful with powerful victories in Belmont's Tremont (gr. III) and the Saratoga Special (gr. II). He will seek to become the fourth consecutive favorite to win Saratoga's most prized race for 2-year-olds. CNBC will televise the Hopeful during its one-hour broadcast that begins at 4 p.m. EDT. Post time for the Hopeful is 4:45 p.m.
In four starts, Zavata has suffered only one defeat. That was in his career debut running against stakes horses in the Three Chimneys Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Derby Day. After an easy maiden win, the first foal out of Pert Lady went on to romp in stakes.
"He has a lot of class and he can do everything," said Biancone, giving the juvenile a glowing review. "He came from behind to win both stakes and broke his maiden on the lead. He listens to the rider."
Often 2-year-olds will dominate the class early in the year, but then because of injury or better competition, their lead on the division will diminish, if not completely evaporate. Biancone does not have a complex formula for keeping Zavata at the top.
"It's very simple," the trainer said. "He just has to run faster than the rest of them and stay healthy."
Zavata should get his toughest test since the Three Chimneys Juvenile Saturday. He is by Phone Trick, whose offspring excel in sprints. At seven furlongs, breeding may give several others a boost.
"We'll know how good he is Saturday," Biancone said. "This will be his first start in a grade I. The weight should be to his advantage. They all run with equal weight in the Hopeful (122 pounds). He had to give weight in the Saratoga Special."
Edward Evans' Roaring Fever may be the best-bred horse in the race. His full sister is multiple grade 1 winner Raging Fever, who ran second in the Ballerina (gr. I) on Aug. 25. Another full sibling, colt Stormin Fever, is a grade III and grade I-placed.
"Mentally, Raging Fever is hot all the time and nervous," trainer Mark Hennig said. "He's real laid back and more of a clown. He's more mature at this point than she ever was. She's a lot more nervous probably because she's a filly. I don't mean that in a chauvinistic way, but that's just the way it is."
Roaring Fever vied for the lead in an Aug. 9 maiden special-weight, then drew off to win by more than two lengths. He may lack seasoning, but his potential is unlimited.
"He still needs to learn," Hennig said. "He's not going to win every race of his life on the lead, although that would be fine if he does. I think racing is going to help him."
Hennig believes the Hopeful will be a better learning experience for Roaring Fever than an entry-level allowance. Raging Fever ran in stakes after breaking her maiden and was undefeated until the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). Hennig is thinking about the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Arlington Park on Oct. 26 with Roaring Fever.
"I know he's got a lot of potential," Hennig said. "He may have to get beat a time or two to figure everything out. If he makes a step forward, the Breeders' Cup is something we could keep in our minds and if he doesn't, it's something we could take out of our minds."
John Oxley's Sky Mesa was one of many 2-year-olds affected by a bug earlier in the meet. Following an impressive 7 3/4-length maiden win Aug. 3, the colt became ill but only missed one workout.
"He's giving up experience to Zavata, but on the bigger picture, the Hopeful puts us right where we need to be if we're going to get to the Breeders' Cup," trainer John Ward Jr. said.
Since Arlington's main track is similar to Saratoga's, the usual Breeders' Cup Juvenile distance of 1 1/16 miles has been extended to 1 1/8 miles.
"It definitely takes sprinters out of the picture," Ward said. "You have to have a horse who is not over-raced and is peaking at that time."
Pretty Wild, owned by Einar Robsham, is out of Alabama (gr. I) winner Pretty Discreet. By Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Wild Again, Pretty Wild broke his maiden in his third try, defeating Blakelock by five lengths. Blakelock came back to win an off-the-turf maiden race Aug. 26.
Rights Reserved won Woodbine's Colin as a maiden, and will make his first start outside of Canada Saturday when he goes out for new owner Raymond Paris.
Storm Cadet comes in off a strong eight-length maiden win against New York-breds, overcoming trouble at the start.
The field for Saturday's Grade 1 Hopeful:
PP. HORSE TRAINER JOCKEY
1. Roaring Fever Mark Hennig John Velazquez
2 Pretty Wild Stanley Hough Shaun Bridgmohan
3. Rights Reserved Chuck Simon Javier Castellano
4. Zavata Patrick Biancone Jerry Bailey
5. Storm Cadet Gary Contessa Pat Day
6. Sky Mesa John Ward Edgar Prado
All starters will carry 122 pounds.