10/07/2005 11:00PM

First Samurai handles Henny Hughes again

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
First Samurai improves his record to a perfect 4 for 4 by winning the Champagne.

ELMONT, N.Y. - First Samurai cemented his status as the favorite for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile by splashing his way to a 2 3/4-length victory over Henny Hughes in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 at Belmont Park.

Henny Hughes, who pressed an extremely fast pace, held second, 9 3/4 lengths ahead of Superfly.

The victory was the fourth in as many starts for First Samurai, who came to prominence at Saratoga with a victory over Henny Hughes in the Grade 1 Hopeful. First Samurai will head to the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile here on Oct. 29 as one of the shorter-priced favorites on the card.

First Samurai had displayed a tendency to lug in. Since the Hopeful, his connections had worked him behind horses and changed the bit on the horse in an effort to get him to run straighter. It seemed to work on Saturday.

"I thought he was much more professional today," said winning trainer Frank Brothers. "Maybe the homework that we did with him helped him. He rated a little bit today; Jerry [Bailey] said he ran very straight."

Bailey had an easy time getting First Samurai to rate as Too Much Bling shot out of the gate under Javier Castellano and ran an opening quarter in 21.63 seconds and the half-mile in 43.67. Henny Hughes, under Gary Stevens, was only a half-length behind that wicked pace.

Henny Hughes took over from Too Much Bling approaching the quarter pole while First Samurai gradually came to him. Bailey had to work on First Samurai to get past Henny Hughes in the stretch but when he did he drew clear while maintaining a straight path. The only negative was First Samurai's final quarter of 27.54 seconds.

"I struggled with the track a bit on the turn when I really had to ask him, which didn't surprise me because he's a big, heavy horse and I didn't think he would just bounce through it the first time," Bailey said. "He came home a little slow but they went pretty fast."

First Samurai ($3.50), a son of Giant's Causeway owned by Lansdon Robbins and Bruce Lunsford, covered the mile in 1:36.29.

Stevens said he rode Henny Hughes as per trainer Patrick Biancone's instructions.

"My instructions specifically were to go to the front and improve my position," Stevens said. "I asked [Biancone] last week if they go 21-and-4 what do I do? He said go 21-and-3. I just got off the phone with him, he's happy, but I look like an idiot. The colt ran big."