10/11/2006 11:00PM

Maiden winners try to steal spotlight


ELMONT, N.Y. - Impressive maiden winners Nobiz Like Shobiz and Liquidity take on stakes winners Scat Daddy and Got the Last Laugh on Saturday in an intriguing renewal of the Champagne Stakes, one that should fill in the missing pieces for next month's $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

The Grade 1, $400,000 for juvenile fillies and the Grade 2, $300,000 Jamaica for 3-year-olds on the turf. The Frizette and Champagne are the first and third legs, respectively, of a national pick four wager with a guaranteed pool of $400,000. The First Lady and the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup - both from Keeneland - are the other legs of the pick four. All four races will be shown live on ESPN during a two-hour broadcast beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern.

Scat Daddy won the Grade 2 Sanford and finished a game second to Circular Quay in the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga. But there has been a buzz surrounding Nobiz Like Shobiz since he won a one-mile maiden race by 10 3/4 lengths here on Sept. 9, earning a 94 Beyer Speed Figure after running one mile in 1:35.26.

Trained by Barclay Tagg, Nobiz Like Shobiz not only got the victory, but also got an education in the race, sitting behind horses and taking dirt in his face before Cornelio Velasquez swung him outside approaching the top of the stretch. He then displayed an explosive kick.

"We wanted him to cover him a little bit first," said Tagg, who trains Nobiz Like Shobiz for Elizabeth Valando. "What's the sense in going to the front and winning your maiden race if they don't learn anything from it? We thought he was good enough to win it the way he did it."

Jumping a maiden winner to a Grade 1 race is out of character for Tagg, but "what else would you do with him?" Nobiz Like Shobiz breaks from post 2.

Scat Daddy, a son of Johannesburg trained by Todd Pletcher, won his maiden by 5 1/4 lengths going 5 1/2 furlongs here in June. Sent off the big favorite in the Grade 2 Sanford at Saratoga, Scat Daddy was kept down on the inside by another horse before he was able to find running room in the stretch and run down a loose-on-the-lead Teuflesberg.

In the Hopeful, Scat Daddy was again pinned down inside and got bumped when trying to split horses, but was still able to get second behind Circular Quay. Jockey John Velazquez believes the education he got in those races could pay off later.

"More than anything else, he's more aggressive now; he's more secure that he can [split horses]," Velazquez said. "He got bounced around and he put up a good fight to do what he did."

Prior to this race, Pletcher and his father, Jake, each sold their 25 percent interest in Scat Daddy to Michael Tabor. James Scatuorchio owns the other 50 percent of Scat Daddy, who will break from post 5.

Got the Last Laugh showed some gameness in dead-heating for the win with Officer Rocket in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity on Sept. 10. Part of a four-ply speed battle early, Got the Last Laugh was passed by Officer Rocket in the stretch only to come back on and earn the dead heat.

"It was a very, very game effort - you can't imagine that he won," trainer Bill Mott said. "That horse came by him with a head of steam and looked like he was going to beat us a length. He's been one of those when you really ask him for it he gives you a little more."

Got the Last Laugh will break from post 8 under Kent Desormeaux.

The last time California-based trainer Doug O'Neill sent a 2-year-old to Belmont, he won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile with Stevie Wonderboy. Saturday, he sends out Liquidity, a son of Tiznow who won his debut by 1 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 94 after running six furlongs in 1:09.34.

"Since his third or fourth work we've been very excited about this guy," O'Neill said. "His debut was very impressive. He showed a good amount of speed, and we were very impressed with the way he kicked clear. And he's moved the right way since."

Liquidity drew the rail and will likely be the main speed under Eibar Coa.

Completing the field are Xchanger, winner of the Sapling; Big Timer, a European import who is 3 for 3 on turf; I'm a Numbers Guy, who beat New York-breds by seven lengths last month; Hopeful fourth-place finisher Pegasus Wind; and maiden winner My Golden Opinion.