10/19/2005 12:00AM

BC Juvenile: Tough call, but Bailey picks 'Samurai'


ELMONT, N.Y. - Of Jerry Bailey's record 14 Breeders' Cup victories, three have come in the Juvenile. So obviously he has made some smart decisions in that race.

This year, Bailey was in the enviable position of having to choose between First Samurai and Private Vow, both of whom he has ridden to three straight victories. Bailey chose First Samurai, but admitted it wasn't as easy a decision as some may think. Bailey said part of the reason was his longstanding relationship with Frank Brothers, the trainer of First Samurai, who also put Bailey on his first classic winner, Hansel.

"I think about it every day," Bailey said of his decision. "Frankie and I have a long history together. He called me up and told me he had a special horse. It's hard to take off a horse that keeps winning. Even though it's a difficult choice, I'm hoping I picked the right one."

First Samurai and Private Vow were two of 17 horses pre-entered for the $1.5 million Juvenile, run at 1 1/16 miles around one turn. The Juvenile drew the largest number of pre-entries of any of the eight Breeders' Cup races, and drew its largest field since 2000.

The field includes California-based stakes winners Stevie Wonderboy and Brother Derek, the undefeated Sorcerer's Stone from the Midwest, and a trio of European horses - Ivan Denisovich, Set Alight, and Leo - who have never raced on dirt. In 2001, the last time the Breeders' Cup was held here, the European-based Johannesburg won.

Bailey became acquainted with both First Samurai and Private Vow at Saratoga. He rode Private Vow to maiden and entry-level allowance wins. He rode First Samurai to victory in an allowance race and the Grade 1 Hopeful.

At Belmont, Bailey rode Private Vow to a nine-length victory in the Grade 2 Futurity, and three weeks later he guided First Samurai to a 2 3/4-length victory in the Grade 1 Champagne.

"Private Vow hasn't done anything wrong; he's very professional, very businesslike, and he executed the same kind of race in the Futurity," Bailey said. "Whereas First Samurai has done quite a few things wrong, but he's still been able to win, and win impressive."

In his two races at Saratoga, First Samurai was a bit fussy in the gate and had a tendency to lug in during his races. Bailey said First Samurai was much better in all aspects in the Champagne.

"Going into the Juvenile I would have to say that First Samurai is pretty professional now - he did everything right," Bailey said. "Had I never ridden him before and just rode him that day, I'd say, 'Hey, man, this horse is as professional as they come.' So he's learned his lessons, I believe. I hope."

As only 14 horses are permitted to run, three of the pre-entered horses will need defections to get into the field. The selection committee took the maiden Jealous Profit and maiden winner Dr. Pleasure - a son of prior Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Beautiful Pleasure - over multiple winners Sharp Attack and Bear Character. Diabolical, a maiden winner, is the third also-eligible.

Stevie Wonderboy and Jealous Profit, both trained by Doug O'Neill, arrived from Southern California on Tuesday and galloped over Belmont's main track on Wednesday. Both are scheduled to work on Saturday.