Zavata's Speed to be Tested in King's Bishop

(from track report)
The $200,000 King's Bishop, a seven-furlong stake for three-year-olds, has been a chalk player's delight the last four years. But if the likely favorites Saturday, Zavata and Posse, a pair of multiple graded stakes winners, want to keep that trend going, they better have their "A" game.

This year's King's Bishop draws a superb field of stakes winners, with Awesome Time, During, Great Notion, Halo Homewrecker, Scrimshaw and Valid Video meeting Posse and Zavata.

Post time for the King's Bishop, race 10 on Saturday's 12-race card, is 5:45 p.m. It will be televised live on ESPN. The two-hour telecast begins at 5:00 p.m. Eastern and also includes the Fourstardave, Ballston Spa (tape delay) and of course, the Travers.

A year ago, Zavata was the unquestioned leader in the 2-year-old division. Zavata romped to lopsided wins in Belmont's Tremont (gr. III) and the Saratoga Special (gr. II). His dominance, however, only lasted a few months.

The Zavata bandwagon began to lose steam in late August at Saratoga when the colt finished third behind Travers candidate Sky Mesa in the Hopeful (gr. I) at odds of 1-5. Eight weeks later, Zavata made the final start of his 2-year-old season in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and was pulled up on the backstretch.

After that disappointment, Zavata made his 3-year-old debut seven later and finished fifth in a money allowance contested over a sloppy track at Belmont.

"We had decided to bring him back over the summer," trainer Patrick Biancone said. "I want a fresh horse for the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Hoping to find a soft spot to get Zavata a win and to regain some confidence, Biancone shipped the Phone Trick colt to Monmouth Park for an optional claimer. Zavata won by a hard-fought length, completing the six-furlong race in 1:08 4/5. It was a sign of good things to come.

On August 2, Zavata returned to Saratoga and crushed a good field that included King's Bishop rivals Posse, Scrimshaw and Great Notion in the Amsterdam (gr. II). Now the colt goes for the first grade I win of his career. In order to accomplish that on Saturday, Zavata will have to stretch his speed and finishing punch to seven furlongs for the first time since finishing third in last summer's Hopeful at 1-5.

"He won by 5 ½ lengths and they've got another furlong to make up that ground," Biancone said. "Seven furlongs is a question mark. I don't think there are too many horses that can beat him at six. He was all by himself as a 2-year-old because he was better than everybody else. Now he's a top sprinter."

Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, a two-time winner of the King's Bishop, has the mount.

Trainer Steve Asmussen has made the most of his time in the Adirondacks this summer, winning the Test (gr. I) with Lady Take and Saratoga Special (gr. II) with Cuvee. Asmussen goes for his third stakes win of the meet with Posse, one of the leading 3-year-old sprinters in the nation.

Zavata regained some old glory in the Amsterdam while an aura of invincibility surrounding Posse vanished. The Amsterdam's even-money favorite after three resolute stakes victories this spring, Posse was never a factor before checking in fourth, six lengths behind Zavata. On Saturday, Posse returns to the distance of his Riva Ridge (gr. II) victory on Belmont Stakes Day with the hopes of turning the tables on Zavata.

"The Amsterdam will be a nice prep," said Asmussen's New York assistant, Scott Blasi. "He kicked pretty hard, but that was a track that was tough to make up ground on."

Stronach Stable's Ghostzapper goes out for Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who won this race in 2001 with Squirtle Squirt. A half-brother to the multiple Saratoga stakes winning City Zip, Ghostzapper has won three of four starts, his last over this course.

200,000 King's Bishop Stakes (gr. I), 3-year-olds, 7 furlongs
1. Great Notion, Darrin Miller, Pat Day, 117
2. Valid Video, Dennis Manning, Joe Bravo, 121
3. Posse, Steve Asmussen, Corey Lanerie, 123
4. Private City, Allen Jerkens, Jean-Luc Samyn ,117
5. Halo Homewrecker, Mark Hennig, Richard Migliore, 121
6. Scrimshaw, D. Wayne Lukas, Jorge Chavez, 123
7. Midnight Charlie, Leah Gyarmati, Heberto Castillo Jr., 119
8. Zavata, Patrick Biancone, Jerry Bailey, 123
9. Ghostzapper, Bobby Frankel, Javier Castellano, 117
10. During, Bob Baffert, Cornelio Velasquez, 123
11. Eye of the Tiger, Jerry Hollendorfer, Alex Solis, 121
12. Awesome Time, Nick Zito, Edgar Prado, 121
13. Christine's Outlaw, George Weaver, John Velazquez, 117
Private City will race with blinkers.