10/27/2005 11:00PM

No holdouts this year - best face the best

"I really think the colts are strong this year, and I'm not saying that because I have a colt in there," said Frank Brothers, who trains First Samurai (above).

ELMONT, N.Y. - First Samurai has been the dominant 2-year-old on the East Coast for months. Now, he must prove himself against the rest of the country and the world in an absolutely terrific renewal of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Saturday at Belmont Park.

First Samurai, a son of Giant's Causeway, is 4 for 4 and comes off convincing wins against Henny Hughes in the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga and the Grade 1 Champagne here three weeks ago.

Trainer Frank Brothers knows the waters get deeper in the Juvenile, which has a purse of $1,590,000 with the supplement of Jealous Profit, a maiden. Unlike past years, this year's Juvenile has brought together the winners of virtually every major 2-year-old stakes run in this country. Private Vow won the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont by nine lengths. Stevie Wonderboy won the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity by five lengths. Sorcerer's Stone is undefeated in three starts in the Midwest, including a maiden victory over Private Vow and an 8 1/2-length score in the Arlington-Washington Futurity.

From Europe come the trio of Set Alight, Ivan Denisovich, and Leo. None of the three has raced on dirt, but neither had Johannesburg and Wilko, the Juvenile winners of 2001 and 2004, respectively.

"I really think the colts are strong this year, and I'm not saying that because I have a colt in there," Brothers said. "I think it's a totally different race. All the major preps and the colts that won or ran well were very impressive, very impressive, and the majority have the pedigree to go on. It'll be a nice pace, and you'll have closers where in the other New York preps there wasn't much closing."

First Samurai showed in the Champagne that he could win from a stalking position. Of course, he had little choice but to stalk when the first half-mile went in 43.67 seconds.

"In the mornings he'll relax, and he's relaxed somewhat in his races," Brothers said. "I think if you take him back, he'll be fine. In his other races, the horses to beat, you had to be close to them; there was no taking back."

Jerry Bailey will ride First Samurai from post 9. He selected First Samurai over Private Vow, who won the Futurity impressively. Trainer Steve Asmussen loved how his horse relaxed in that race and how he was not bothered by a loose horse, whom Private Vow ran alongside in the stretch. John Velazquez rides Private Vow from post 11.

"The most comfortable thing about being around him is he's never been a tout as far as works, but he's always been good enough in the afternoon," Asmussen said. "His Futurity, although against suspect horses, was very visually impressive, especially how the loose horse did not even seem to be in his acknowledgement. He just went on about his business, which gives me the indication he's got a little left."

Private Vow is one of three major contenders in recent years to come into the Juvenile off a six-week layoff. In 2002 and 2003, respectively, Whywhywhy and Cuvee were made the Juvenile favorites off convincing Futurity wins, but did not have a race in between. In their Juveniles, Whywhywhy finished 10th, Cuvee 12th.

Doug O'Neill brings in Stevie Wonderboy off a two-month layoff, but feels his horse won't be affected because of his running style.

"Our horse just runs the last half of the race; the other part he just gallops along," O'Neill said. "It seems like those horses that win on the front end have to be so fit, they're running from the time they jump out of the gate. Stevie just gets his feet underneath him and runs the last part."

Stevie Wonderboy displayed an affinity for the Belmont main strip with a bullet half-mile breeze in 46.02 seconds on Monday.

Trainer Patrick Byrne won the 1997 Juvenile with Favorite Trick, who capped an undefeated season and clinched Horse of the Year with that victory. While he figured Favorite Trick to be a precocious colt, he pegged Sorcerer's Stone for next year's Kentucky Derby.

But Sorcerer's Stone, who is 3 for 3 including a dominant victory in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity, convinced Byrne to come to the Juvenile.

"[Mark] Guidry jumped off this horse in his last race, and I said, 'Did you have much left?' " Byrne said. "He said, 'I had another gear left.' "

Stream Cat is a closer who deserves a look in the exotics. His win from last in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway Park was impressive, and he closed a ton of ground when third in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland.