11/02/2006 12:00AM

It's the old quandary: East or West?


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - They have arrived from the East. They have arrived from the West. The $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Saturday at Churchill Downs could be viewed as the final arbiter as to which region has the best 2-year-olds this year. But maybe that is already known.

The Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 7 brought together the top-ranked 2-year-old in the East in Circular Quay, and one of the West's best in Great Hunter, who beat Circular Quay by 1 3/4 lengths.

That race, however, took place on Keeneland's new Polytrack surface, and how that form will translate onto the traditional dirt surface at Churchill throws an entirely new wrinkle into handicapping this Juvenile.

This race could fall several different ways. If California form holds up, Great Hunter, Principle Secret, and Stormello will be formidable. If Polytrack can be blamed for Circular Quay's first loss, he and Todd Pletcher-trained stablemates Scat Daddy and King of the Roxy may prove prominent. And there are several locally based horses who appear to be coming to hand at just the right time, including Street Sense and U D Ghetto.

Stuff 14 lightly raced 2-year-olds into the gate, add a short run to the first turn and the biggest crowd any of them have ever seen, and iron-clad predictions are only for the brave.

Great Hunter is solid. The Breeders' Futurity, a 1 1/16-mile race like the Juvenile, was his first start around two turns, and he relished the distance. He has shown marked improvement since blinkers were added before his second-place finish in the Del Mar Futurity.

"He's an extremely special horse," said his trainer, Doug O'Neill, who won this race last year with Stevie Wonderboy. "He acts like an older horse. I'm excited about him. He's our little Lava Man."

The Del Mar Futurity looked all the stronger on Oct. 8, when Stormello, the third-place finisher in that race, came back to take the Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.

"I knew he'd go on because Kent Desormeaux, before the race, told me he'd go on and on and on," said Bill Currin, who trains and co-owns Stormello. "I think he can run all day. He's a good, solid racehorse."

Principle Secret, who won his first two starts, was second to Stormello in the Norfolk after setting a hot pace from an inside draw.

"He ran a very good race," said his trainer, Christopher Paasch. "Too good to lose."

Circular Quay won twice at Churchill Downs, then beat Scat Daddy in the Hopeful at Saratoga, before losing to Great Hunter at Keeneland.

"We got a good two-turn race under his belt, and I think going back onto the Churchill surface, which he's 2-for-2 on, we should see an improved race," Pletcher said.

Scat Daddy's lone loss in four starts was in the Hopeful, in which he had a poor trip. He rebounded to take the Champagne, but he will be coming back on just three weeks' rest for the first time in his career. Pletcher usually prefers more time between races for his horses.

"I'm just hoping that young horses sometimes can overcome some of that stuff," Pletcher said. "He's a good energy-level horse that generally feels good and seems sharp but, like always, I'd rather have more time."

Scat Daddy will be trying two turns for the first time. Circular Quay, Great Hunter, Principle Secret, and Stormello all have gone two turns, and run well.

"I think he's going to love it," Pletcher said of Scat Daddy. "He's dying for it. And he's educated enough and he's been behind horses enough and he's had enough seasoning that I'm not concerned about a big field. Sometimes you get 2-year-olds to a certain point and they've done what he's done or what Circular Quay's done, but they've been on the front end, they never had dirt in their face, they've had things go their own way. Both of those horses have had education to this point."

Street Sense was third in the Breeders' Futurity. With his rail draw, he should get a ground-saving trip. His trainer, Carl Nafzger, said he is immature, but improving.

"He hasn't learned to run on when he gets the lead," Nafzger said. "He gets the lead, and he goes to looking around. He came out of his last race sharp. He's sharper, instead of just playing."

Pegasus Wind figures to be part of the contested pace. He was third in the Champagne to Scat Daddy after finishing fourth behind Circular Quay in the Hopeful.

King of the Roxy, the Belmont Futurity winner, also should be forwardly placed. C P West, who was second in the Belmont Futurity, has raced just twice, but acts as though two turns will suit him.

Got the Last Laugh was a disappointing fifth in the Champagne Stakes. Malt Magic was well-beaten in the Norfolk, and is marooned in post 13 in the Juvenile. Skip Code, who won the Grey Stakes at Woodbine, has to overcome the far outside, post 14. Teuflesberg only owns a maiden win in eight tries.

- additional reporting by David Grening