08/31/2008 11:00PM

Big maiden winners leap into Hopeful

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Few 2-year-olds were more impressive at this meet than Cribnote and Munnings were in winning maiden races a day apart in July. The question handicappers must answer is whether those brilliant maiden performances will translate into success against more experienced horses in Monday's Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes.

The $250,000 Hopeful, contested at seven furlongs, is the main event on an 11-race card that brings to an end the 140th Saratoga meet. There are three other stakes on a card that begins at 1 p.m. The New York Racing Association is offering free clubhouse and grandstand admission to the track on Monday.

Cribnote, a New York-bred son of Read the Footnotes, was slammed into the rail entering the far turn of his debut going five furlongs at Belmont Park. Though he lost all chance at that point, he still made a belated rally to be fourth, beaten just 4 1/4 lengths by Two Brash.

He came back 24 days later in a New York-bred maiden race and after breaking sharply he dropped back to third, tipped three wide around the far turn, then inhaled the speed horses in front of him en route to a 13 1/2-length victory. He ran the 5o1/2 furlongs in 1:03.32 - just .19 of a second off the track record - and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 90. Trainer Rick Violette doesn't see the jump to seven furlongs as an issue on Monday.

"He got knocked down in his first race and made a big late run," said Violette, who noted that in Cribnote's second start "he broke really well and settled behind two speed horses and attacked them when ready, so I think it probably suits us better."

Violette said Cribnote has developed significantly in the five weeks since his maiden win.

"He's actually grown on us a little bit, he's a little leggier," Violette said. "He's such an accommodating horse, he wants to please - I call him a lab. Even in his stall he likes affection, he just wants to make you happy. Looking forward to him doing that on Monday."

Cribnote breaks from post 8 under Rajiv Maragh.

The day before Cribnote won, Munnings overcame a slow start to rush up and win a maiden race by 4 1/4 lengths in front-running fashion under John Velazquez. He ran the six furlongs in 1:09.84 and earned a Beyer Figure of 90.

"I thought his debut was very good; he didn't get away real cleanly from the gate, Johnny aggressively rode him into the race and he set some very fast fractions and he kept going," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "I was impressed by that. He came out of it well and trained well since then."

Pletcher acknowledges that his colt having just one race is a disadvantage.

"We're probably running against some horses that have a race or two-race edge on us - that's always at this early stage of the game a big advantage," he said. "So we're taking the worst of it from that standpoint."

Desert Party made the successful jump from debut winner to stakes winner when he took the Grade 2 Sanford here on July 24. That race scratched down to a field of four, and Desert Rally made a winning move along the rail. Trainer Eoin Harty is looking forward to running him seven furlongs in the Hopeful.

"I think the experience factor and his style of running are going to be to his benefit on Monday," Harty said.

Notonthesamepage, who set a track record winning a 4 1/2-furlong maiden race at Churchill on April 30, scratched out of the Sanford due to a temperature. He recovered quickly enough to run two days later in the Tyro at Monmouth Park, where he was defeated by Fellow Crasher. After that race, trainer Wesley Ward trained Notonthesamepage without blinkers and believes he sees a different horse. In a public workout on Aug. 13, Notonthesamepage worked six furlongs in 1:10.24 over Saratoga's main track.

"It has made all the difference," said Ward, who won his ninth race of the meet on Saturday. "He's an extremely talented horse with or without the blinkers. Without them he gallops around like an old pro, with blinkers he wants to run off."

Break Water Edison finished a good second to Run Away and Hide in the Saratoga Special while finishing nearly six lengths ahead of the rest of the field. He had to go wide, while the winner cut the corner.

"For the second lifetime race he gave up a lot of ground, showed good courage, finished willingly," trainer John Kimmel said. "He had to correct himself a little bit through the lane because it looked like he wanted to come over a little bit on the other horse, which I think cost him a little bit of momentum. With a race under his belt like that, if he goes forward off of that race or just improves a little bit I think it makes him a very solid contender in the race."

Cognito, Vineyard Haven, and Medgalia d'Onore complete the field.