08/29/2006 12:00AM

Hopeful often the start of major careers

Scat Daddy leads a field of promising juveniles in Monday's Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. He will try for his third win in as many starts.

Scat Daddy leads a field of promising juveniles in Monday's Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. He will try for his third win in as many starts.

LAS VEGAS - With all due respect to racetracks around the country, the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes is the first major event for 2-year-old colts. A victory in the Hopeful is akin to a victory in the Metropolitan Handicap - it goes a long way toward making the winner a future stallion.

Since its inception in 1903, the Hopeful has often been a harbinger of success for the following year's classics. With the exception of 2004, however, when Afleet Alex's victory in the Hopeful catapulted him to victories in the Preakness and Belmont in 2005, the Hopeful has not had much of an effect lately on the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, or Belmont Stakes. You have to go back to 1995, when Louis Quatorze finished second to Hennessy in the Hopeful before going on to win the 1996 Preakness, to find a colt who achieved success in a Triple Crown race.

Nonetheless, the race has still identified juveniles with exceptional ability, many of whom have become prominent stallions. Following Hennessy's Hopeful victory in 1995, he battled Unbridled's Song in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and finished second by a head in what turned out to be his final race. Hennessy is now among Storm Cat's best sons at stud, siring, among others, Johannesburg, an undefeated 2-year-old champion and currently the leading freshman sire. Smoke Glacken won the Hopeful in 1996 and went on to become champion sprinter at 3. He has been a popular and successful stallion since his retirement. Came Home won the 2001 Hopeful, and while he was not part of the Triple Crown the next year, he won the Pacific Classic, Santa Anita Derby, and Swaps Stakes at 3. Sky Mesa won the 2002 Hopeful, and returned off a long layoff to be third in the Dwyer Stakes and second in the Haskell Invitational Handicap.

This year, the Hopeful features a competitive group of 2-year-olds who have already shown talent.

Scat Daddy, who looked so brilliant winning his debut, appeared beaten in deep stretch of the Sanford Stakes but somehow reeled in Teuflesberg to win by a neck. By Johannesburg, Scat Daddy is out of Love Style (Mr. Prospector), who was unraced, but his second dam, Loveable Style, was a multiple stakes winner whose victories included the Las Virgenes Stakes, Honeymoon Handicap, and Senorita Breeders' Cup Stakes.

Circular Quay, who like Scat Daddy is trained by Todd Pletcher, is undefeated in two starts, including the Bashford Manor Stakes, and his breeding suggests he will only get better with maturity and distance. By Thunder Gulch, Circular Quay is out of 1999 Spinaway Stakes winner Circle of Life, who has also produced Circle the World (by Fusaichi Pegasus), a promising 3-year-old for Pletcher.

Pegasus Wind was so highly touted by trainer D. Wayne Lukas that his first start was a stakes, and he flashed speed before fading. He rebounded to win a maiden race at Saratoga in his second start. Pegasus Wind has a strong pedigree, being by Fusaichi Pegasus and out of the Meadowlake (speed influence) mare Ride the Wind. His second dam, Agotaras (Saratoga Six), was a multiple stakes winner, and his third dam, Aurania, was a half-sister to stakes winner Euphrosyne.

The Nick Zito-trained Irish Ace, who won his only start, is by Grand Slam, who is a strong influence for speed and milers. Irish Ace's second dam is a full sister to Sleek Feet, Witwatersrand and Listen Here. This female line also produced Sue Babe, who is the dam of Sir Harry Lewis, Sir Richard Lewis, and Champagneforashley.

Rajjaas, by Elusive Quality, showed his sire's speed and won his only start at Saratoga. His fourth dam is Straight Deal, a stakes winner at 3, 4, and 5 and the champion older mare of 1967, when she captured the Delaware, Top Flight, Vineland, Bed o' Roses, and Orchid handicaps.

Unbridled Express is by speed influence Unbridled's Song, and her female family has produced international stars such as the top Japanese sprinters Agnes World and Hishi Akebono. Librettist, winner of the recent Prix Jacques Le Marois, also descends from this family and may be heading for the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Buffalo Man is by El Prado and won his only start in Canada. He is out of Perfect Six (Saratoga Six), who won the Santa Paula Stakes and finished third in the La Habra Stakes. Perfect Six is also a half-sister to Commitisize, a stakes winner at 2, 3, 4, and 5 on dirt and turf.