12/23/2007 12:00AM

Clash of juvenile leaders

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Alex Evers/Horsephotos
Massive Drama, with Kent Desormeaux up, wins the Prevue Stakes. He figures to be near the front in Saturday's Grade 1 Futurity.
INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Between them, Colonel John and Massive Drama have dominated the 2-year-old division at Hollywood Park this fall.

Colonel John, a three-length winner of the Real Quiet Stakes Nov. 18, and Massive Drama, who remained unbeaten after two starts with an impressive score in the Hollywood Prevue Stakes four days later, are colts that could dominate the California 3-year-old division early next year.

They meet for the first time in Saturday's $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park, a Grade 1 race over 1 1/16 miles that has drawn a strong field of 14. For Colonel John, it will be his first start in a graded stakes. For Massive Drama, it will be his first start around two turns.

"The two turns will be a big test," trainer Bob Baffert said. "You don't know how they'll handle that."

So far, Massive Drama has handled everything well.

Owned by Zayat Stables, Massive Drama overcame a slow start to win the seven-furlong Prevue by 1 3/4 lengths. Starting from post 2 in the CashCall Futurity, he figures to play a prominent role from the start.

"He'll be up close with his natural speed," Baffert said. "He hasn't missed a beat. I like the way he's coming along."

Even though he is undefeated, Massive Drama may not be favored. That role could go to Colonel John, whose stature has only grown this fall among the nation's 2-year-olds.

Colonel John is already proven at 1 1/16 miles, handing the distance with ease in the Real Quiet Stakes, his first start against winners. With so many rivals on Saturday, trainer Eoin Harty knows that Colonel John must be at his best.

"I'm supremely confident that he'll run his race," Harty said. "I'm not supremely confident that he'll win. It's a tough race."

With a large field and a short run to the first turn, racing luck will play a factor. Colonel John drew post 8.

Harty envisions Colonel John having a stalking trip, similar to the way he won the Real Quiet Stakes.

"There seems to be a ton of speed inside of me, so it's preordained what we're doing," he said. "I think the race will be won or lost in the first turn. Somebody will get fanned wide on the turn, the backstretch, and the second turn. I hope it's someone else and not me."

Owned and bred by WinStar Farm, Colonel John is seeking his third consecutive win, having won a seven-furlong maiden race at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting by 4 1/2 lengths on Oct. 7. Harty has had this race as a late-season goal for months.

"When you get a good one, you know from day one," Harty said.

Aside from Massive Drama, Colonel John must beat rivals such as Into Mischief, who was second in the Prevue, and Slew's Tiznow and Old Man Buck, the second- and third-place finishers in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 6.

Saturday's race marks the stakes debut of the unbeaten Monba and of Eaton's Gift, who won his last two starts. Indian Sun, second in the Generous Stakes on turf on Nov. 23, is making his first start on a synthetic main track.

Into Mischief was always near the front in the Prevue but could not keep pace with Massive Drama in the final furlong. When he beat maidens in his debut at the Oak Tree meeting on Oct. 21, Into Mischief pulled away from his rivals.

Trainer Richard Mandella said Into Mischief appeared agitated in the moments before the Prevue.

"He was unsettled going to the post," Mandella said. "Hopefully, he'll take a step forward. He'll have to. He shows a lot of talent."

Harty has been watching Colonel John's opponents train, and said he has been impressed with Into Mischief and trainer Todd Pletcher's three starters - Meal Penalty, Monba, and Referee. Meal Penalty was third in the Prevue. "I really like Mandella's colt," Harty said, referring to Into Mischief. "I think he'll be tough to beat. Todd's horses look worthy of it on paper. It will take a good horse to win it."