08/31/2007 11:00PM

Experience edge to Ready's Image

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
With four starts, Ready?s Image has as many as his three rivals combined.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Though he has unleashed one good-looking 2-year-old after another here this summer, trainer Bob Baffert knows that he faces a tall task when he sends out Maimonides against Ready's Image in Monday's Grade 1, $250,000 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga.

"He's been the most impressive [2-year-old] I've seen in a stakes race this year," Baffert said of Ready's Image. "We have to move way forward, Ready's Image can stay where he is."

Ready's Image, a son of More Than Ready, has won 3 of 4 starts and is the leader of the East Coast's 2-year-old division. His presence in the seven-furlong Hopeful along with that of the impressive debut winner Maimonides are the major reasons why the Hopeful drew only four horses.

Monday's closing-day card also features a strong renewal of the Grade 3, $100,000 Glens Falls Handicap for fillies and mares on turf.

Ready's Image won his debut at Keeneland by 3 1/4 lengths, then didn't seem to care for the slop when third in the Kentucky Breeders' Cup at Churchill. Trainer Todd Pletcher put blinkers on Ready's Image for the Tremont on July 1 at Belmont Park, and the colt responded with a resounding 7o3/4-length victory.

Pletcher brought Ready's Image back on 25 days' rest and he rolled again to a four-length victory in the Grade 2 Sanford while running six furlongs in 1:09.90.

"I thought it was a very good effort," Pletcher said of the Sanford. "My main concern going into the race was I thought the Tremont was a spectacular race and he was coming back a little sooner than I'd like. We zeroed in on the Hopeful as our main target and we wanted the extra time from the Sanford to here."

Pletcher said he put blinkers on Ready's Image just to focus him better.

"He was what I'd describe as a curious colt," Pletcher said.

With four starts under his belt, Ready's Image has as many starts as his three rivals combined.

"Experience can mean a lot in these types of races," Pletcher said. "We're talking about some quality experience with a horse that's pretty much been dominating his opposition."

Ready's Image drew the advantageous outside post in the short field.

Maimonides, a $4.6 million son of Vindication, dominated his eight rivals in an Aug. 8 maiden race by 11 1/2 lengths. He ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.41. Baffert said he had considered running Maimonides in the six-furlong Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park, but decided not to ship.

"We're here, we're training well, it's a Grade 1," Baffert said. "I wouldn't lead him over there if I didn't think he was ready."

Baffert said the Hopeful ought to do Maimonides a world of good on the road to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Maimonides breaks from post 2.

"I feel like it's not a make it or break it race," Baffert said. "It's another step to the Breeders' Cup. He'll run well, get a lot out of it, and we'll learn more about him."

Majestic Warrior, owned by George Steinbrenner's Kinsman Stable, is a regally bred son of Grade 1 winners A.P. Indy and Dream Supreme. He won his first start by 3o1/2 lengths coming from off the pace in a 6o1/2-furlong maiden race on Aug. 4.

Trainer Bill Mott, who said he hasn't run a horse in the Hopeful since Paradise Creek finished fourth in 1991, said he was impressed with Majestic Warrior's professionalism in his debut.

"For a big horse, he broke well," Mott said. "He sat right in behind them, he ate a little dirt, he was responsive."

Like Baffert, Mott knows his horse is giving up a lot in experience to Ready's Image.

"Unless you've got a superior horse, which maybe we do or maybe we don't," Mott said. "We're getting an opportunity to run and hopefully there's more to come."

Georgetown, a son of Storm Cat, is coming off a five-furlong maiden win here Aug. 1. Trainer Dallas Stewart has been very pleased with Georgetown's two works leading up to this race.

"Each work got better," Stewart said. "I think he's going to run a good one."