08/25/2005 12:00AM

Henny Hughes faces true test


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Precocious babies with speed have become the norm for trainer Patrick Biancone. But as the distances began to get longer, Biancone's juveniles - such as Mayakovsky, Zavata, and Whywhywhy - haven't been as effective.

In the 2002 Hopeful, Zavata was sent off as the 3-10 favorite only to finish third behind Sky Mesa. In the 2001 Hopeful, Mayakovsky, who had equaled a Saratoga track record in a maiden win earlier in the meet, finished second behind Came Home.

Saturday, when Biancone brings the precocious and quick to the seven-furlong Hopeful, he anticipates a different result.

"He's just better," Biancone said when asked to compare Henny Hughes to his previous 2-year-olds. "The main difference is Zavata had only one style, Whywhywhy got only one style; the race had to go a certain way. [Henny Hughes] doesn't care. He could go to the front or sit in behind."

Unbeaten in three starts, including dominant wins in the Tremont and Saratoga Special, Henny Hughes should get his first real test in the $250,000 Hopeful, where he meets another unbeaten horse, First Samurai. Too Much Bling, Tizzys Saint, and Winning Minister complete the field.

"If somebody has a better one, good luck to them," Biancone said. "Every race he's going to run, there's going to be new horses, tougher competition, longer distances. We'll see. The only question mark with this horse is how far is he going to carry his speed? Unfortunately, you don't know till you try."

Henny Hughes will have to carry his speed an eighth of a mile farther than he has previously run. Still, Biancone said he doesn't suspect it will be a problem.

Henny Hughes is a son of 1995 Hopeful winner Hennessy, who was ridden by Henny Hughes's regular rider, Gary Stevens. Biancone said he was planning to have Stevens take Henny Hughes off the pace in the Tremont, but Henny Hughes stumbled at the start and ran off with Stevens.

Henny Hughes, who was purchased for $4.3 million by Sheikh Rajid bin Mohammed al Maktoum before the Saratoga Special, will break from post 4.

First Samurai, a son of Giant's Causeway, is 2 for 2 for trainer Frank Brothers. He has raced a tad greenly in both of his starts - including an allowance win here on Aug. 7 - and Brothers said he believes First Samurai will be better going longer.

"He kind of laid [on horses] in his first start, and the same thing in his second start, so there's some room for improvement," Brothers said. "I don't know that we're taking the best of it going seven-eighths."

Jerry Bailey rides First Samurai from post 2.

Winning Minister wheels back just two weeks after winning his maiden by three-quarters of a length

"Even though it's only two weeks, if he didn't work good or didn't train good I wouldn't do it," said his trainer, Bob Barbara. "I think he's a real good colt, and I think there's a lot more down the road when they go further."