10/02/2008 11:00PM

Can't fault Vineyard Haven for lack of trouble

Email

ELMONT, N.Y. - At 9-1, Vineyard Haven was virtually ignored by the bettors in last month's Grade 1 Hopeful. Given the trips the second- and third-place finishers had behind Vineyard Haven in that race, owner/trainer Bobby Frankel expects his horse to be an attractive price again in Saturday's Grade 1, $400,000 Champagne at Belmont Park.

While Vineyard Haven had relatively smooth sailing on the front end, Cribnote blew the turn before rallying to be second. Munnings, the Hopeful favorite, got off slowly and then stumbled before finishing third. Frankel has some advice for those who fancy those horses over his Saturday.

"If you just bet against those kind of horses and bet on the horses that beat them without the trouble, you'd make a lot of money," Frankel said.

Frankel's theory will be put to the test when Vineyard Haven faces Cribnote, Munnings, and seven other intriguing juveniles in the 137th Champagne, contested at one mile. The Champagne - a Win and You're In race, rewarding victory with a spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile - tops a 10-race card that includes the Grade 1 Frizette for juvenile fillies at a mile on dirt and the $250,000 Jamaica for 3-year-old males going 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Frankel purchased Vineyard Haven after the colt's debut victory at Calder on June 28. In the Grade 2 Sanford on July 24 at Saratoga, Vineyard Haven finished third, but lost a shoe in the race.

In the Hopeful, Vineyard Haven broke sharply, put away a pace challenge from Break Water Edison, and came home an easy winner as Cribnote closed down the center of the track after bolting at the quarter pole.

"Who knows if my horse would have run faster if they had come to him?" Frankel said.

Rick Violette, trainer of Cribnote, said it was not a given that Cribnote would have won the Hopeful had he maintained a straight course. Still, he was proud of his colt's effort and is hoping the addition of blinkers will help Cribnote on Saturday.

"He needs not to hurt his chances and cause his own defeat," Violette said.

Munnings had trouble of his own in the Hopeful, or he may have been ahead of Vineyard Haven early. Instead, he was at the back of the pack before rallying to be third.

"He was standing well, and he kind of moved back as they were kicking it and he tried to overcompensate by breaking real hard, so he got off to a slow start and then he stumbled the second stride," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "I think if that wouldn't have happened he would have been forwardly placed instead of playing catch-up."

Girolamo and Gone Astray got stuck behind horses, and neither had clear sailing over a wet track when fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Grade 2 Futurity here on Sept. 13.

Hello Broadway, a half-brother to 2006 Champagne runner-up Nobiz Like Shobiz, and Ventana, a son of 2002 Champange winner Toccet, are coming off good-looking debut victories. Nick Zito, trainer of 5 of the last 10 Champagne winners, wheels Brave Victory back two weeks after an impressive maiden win.