07/06/2006 11:00PM

Four juveniles already making their mark

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E Z Warrior, trained by Bob Baffert, ran like a star on the rise in the Hollywood Juvenile.

PHOENIX - It's early summer and the search for the next Barbaro has begun in earnest. However, at this time of year you're usually going to get the next Henny Hughes or Hennessy or More Than Ready - a 2-year-old more likely to succeed at the shorter distances.

Not that there's anything in the world wrong with that. Hey, there's plenty of money to be made for a fast 2-year-old who doesn't make it to the Kentucky Derby.

Here are a few 2-year-olds who could make some noise:

Scat Daddy - It's no shock when trainer Todd Pletcher starts firing with juveniles. This colt, a son of European and American 2-year-old champion Johannesburg, debuted in the mud and was stuck with the 1 post in a race on June 3 at Belmont. It didn't matter.

He jumped right out to contest the pace in the 5 1/2-furlong race, dueled early on the inside, took over going into the lane, and powered home to win by better than five lengths, seemingly without being asked for his best. It was visually dazzling and the Beyer Speed Figure boys were impressed, too, giving him a 93 Beyer. He has worked smartly and regularly since, and Pletcher reportedly is targeting the Grade 2 Sanford at Saratoga July 27.

Soaring By - Another promising Pletcher runner, this one debuted at Belmont on Tuesday. Soaring By had an outside post in a 5 1/2-furlong race. He stalked comfortably in third place, took over going into the lane, and drew off to win easily by five lengths.

The win earned him a 99 Beyer. No doubt both of these Pletcher runners, as well as Tuesday's Tremont winner, Out of Gwedda, give Pletcher his typically powerful hand for the major juvenile races coming up. Soaring By is by the classic sire Deputy Minister and out of a Northjet mare.

E Z Warrior - Trainer Bob Baffert lost his star 2-year-old of last year, What a Song, who died. Baffert appears to have another star this year in E Z Warrior.

This colt cost $1.2 million at auction this year and has wasted little time trying to deliver. A son of Exploit - himself unbeaten at 2 for Baffert and the early Derby favorite before suffering a career-ending injury in the spring of his 3-year-old season - E Z Warrior has gone one better than the two Pletcher runners, dazzling onlookers in his two races.

He debuted at Hollywood on June 18 in a five-furlong race. He pressed the pace, took over going to the far turn, and cruised home to victory, earning an 85 Beyer. He came back in Tuesday's Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile and drew the rail. Baffert was thinking about scratching him because of the poor post, but opted to use the race as an education for E Z Warrior. Jockey David Flores took him back. Might as well find out now if he can run from off the pace, Baffert thought.

E Z Warrior bided his time along the inside in traffic while taking dirt in the face. He checked on heels going to the far turn. None of it mattered as he bulled through between horses turning for home and despite a momentary scare from the onrushing Great Hunter, bounded away to win by almost three lengths. Not only did the Beyer come back high (92), but the performance was visually impressive. Baffert had to love the professionalism E Z Warrior displayed. He almost certainly will run next at Del Mar, and it looks like the sky's the limit for him.

Great Hunter - Perhaps lost in E Z Warrior's wake was the performance of this colt in the Hollywood Juvenile. Great Hunter had won his first two starts impressively at Lone Star Park in the spring, then was privately purchased by J. Paul Reddam and transferred to trainer Doug O'Neill's care prior to the Hollywood Juvenile. A son of long-winded Kentucky Derby runner-up Aptitude, he was slow into stride in the Juvenile but made a strong wide run, briefly ranging up alongside the eventual winner. But while E Z Warrior made room between horses and found a much shorter way home, Great Hunter was pitched out very wide. He wasn't going to beat the winner regardless, but certainly could have finished closer.

O'Neill showed last year with Stevie Wonderboy that he knows how to handle a top juvenile, and Great Hunter holds tons of promise as the furlongs increase and the months tick down to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.