Updated on 09/16/2011 8:08AM

Hopeful looks all Zavata

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Following Zavata's 6 1/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park on May 27, trainer Patrick Biancone was quoted as saying "at least until the end of August, he will be tough to beat."

"Bailey said nobody will beat him till the end of August," said Biancone, who said he was just reiterating what jockey Jerry Bailey told him. "I look forward to him being right."

August comes to an end on Saturday, and Zavata will be heavily favored to win when he meets five rivals in the $200,000 at Saratoga. The Hopeful, run at seven furlongs, is the first Grade 1 race of the year for juveniles and will be televised live on CNBC (3-4 p.m. Eastern).

Biancone, who saddled Whywhywhy to victory in the Grade 2 Sanford Stakes on July 25, has the opportunity to sweep Saratoga's three juvenile stakes with two horses. Trainer Patrick Byrne did it in 1997 with Favorite Trick (Saratoga Special and Hopeful) and Polished Brass (Sanford).

The Hopeful starts the Bessemer Trust Two-Year-Old Challenge, which offers bonus money of up to $1.3 million for the connections of a horse who can win one of eight designated juvenile races, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and next year's Kentucky Derby. There is a $250,000 bonus to the owner of a horse who wins a designated juvenile stakes and the B.C. Juvenile.

Zavata figures to be the first horse to qualify for the bonus as he towers over his five rivals in Saturday's Hopeful. After finishing second in the Three Chimneys Juvenile on Derby Day, Zavata won his maiden by 5 1/2 lengths, the Tremont by 6 1/4 and the Grade 2 Saratoga Special by 7 1/4 lengths.

Though Zavata comes back in just 17 days, his workouts suggest to Biancone there is no regression forthcoming.

"Form-wise, he's better than last time; he's sharper than he was last time," Biancone said. "He was fit last time, but he was not as sharp."

The prospect of a wet track could be the only obstacle for Zavata, who has never raced or worked on anything but a dry track.

"When you have the best horse on good ground, why would you want anything but good ground?" Biancone said. "But, the off track is for everybody."

Sky Mesa will most likely be the second choice based on his 7 3/4-length maiden win over a good track on Aug. 3 in which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 92. Sky Mesa got sick following his debut, but his trainer, John Ward, thinks Sky Mesa is healthy enough to run in the Hopeful, and he is using this as a prep for the longer races in the fall.

"What we want are building performances each time," Ward said. "Sky Mesa will become a superior animal when he goes around the second turn."

Roaring Fever won his maiden at first asking for trainer Mark Hennig and owner/breeder Edward Evans. He raced a bit greenly that day, but Hennig said he has become "more attentive" in his last two workouts. Roaring Fever is a full brother to Raging Fever, who as a 2-year-old won the Adirondack here by 9 1/4 lengths over a sloppy track.

"We're giving up quite a bit on experience, but we got to get going if we want to think about the possibility of running in some of the bigger races in the fall," Hennig said. "We feel like Zavata obviously stands in the way, but the rest of them are in about the same boat we are. If we can run well enough to build on it, that would be a good thing."

Pretty Wild was beaten 9 3/4 lengths by Zavata in his first career start. Two starts later he won his maiden by five lengths at Belmont. Pretty Wild, trained by Stanley Hough, is a daughter of Storm Cat out of the mare Pretty Discreet, who won the 1995 Alabama in the slop at 42-1.

Rights Reserved and Storm Cadet complete the field.

THE FIELD
HOPEFUL STAKES
Purse:
$200,000; 7 furlongs; Grade 1

PP HORSE JOCKEY ODDS
1 Roaring Fever J. Velazquez 12-1
2 Pretty Wild S. Bridgmohan 10-1
3 Rights Reserved J. Castellano 10-1
4 Zavata J. Bailey 2-5
5 Storm Cadet P. Day 12-1
6 Sky Mesa E. Prado 7-2

All starters carry 122 pounds
Odds by Michael Sherack
Television: Saturday, 4 p.m. (Eastern), CNBC

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