02/02/2006 12:00AM

First Samurai faster than rivals

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First Samurai gallops for the Hutcheson with exercise rider Lisa Sloan on Wednesday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - First Samurai was one of the most accomplished 2-year-olds of 2005, and will be a short price when he makes his 2006 debut in the Grade 2, $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. Yet there are seven others entered against him, two of whom have run well enough against lesser competition recently to indicate they may have the best chance of pulling off an upset.

, who has won both his starts for trainer Todd Pletcher, and Fabled, who has won twice in three starts for trainer Nick Zito, both have already run at this meet, so they may have a conditioning edge. But both will need to improve or hope First Samurai regresses from his 2-year-old form in order to have a chance in the 7 1/2-furlong Hutcheson.

"I like my horse - he's going the right way - but unfortunately we have to run against First Samurai," Zito said Thursday. "He's training well. He's had a couple of great works since his last race. And I like that he's drawn outside of First Samurai."

won the first two starts of his career, at Saratoga and Churchill Downs, before finishing second in a second-level allowance race on Jan. 14 to Rehoboth, who is entered in Saturday's Holy Bull Stakes. Fabled is in the outside post, 8, with First Samurai drawn just to his inside.

won the first four starts of his career before finishing third to subsequent Eclipse Award winner Stevie Wonderboy in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

First Samurai will be ridden for the first time by Edgar Prado, who takes over from the retired Jerry Bailey. Prado was aboard First Samurai last Saturday when he breezed a half-mile from the gate in 48.40 seconds.

"I'm looking for him to run well off the bench; hope he does it the right way and comes out of it well," said Frank Brothers, who trains First Samurai. Brothers said he wants First Samurai to sit just off the pace.

With the exception of his debut, all of First Samurai's Beyer Speed Figures are faster than those recorded by any of his rivals in the Hutcheson.

Keyed Entry looms the one to catch off his stylish victory here on Jan. 7, when he crushed a first-level allowance field by 5 1/2 lengths for his second win in as many starts.

"We know he's a very good horse," Pletcher said. "We're excited about the way he's training, and pleased with the way he ran last time. I think he'll run well. With First Samurai in the race, we'll see if that's good enough."

City Attraction, who starts from the rail, has scored front-running victories in his last two starts. He figures to pressure Keyed Entry, but might have better luck trying to establish a stalking position.

Blazing Rate won three of four starts last year at Calder. He will be running late.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch