10/06/2005 12:00AM

Rematch only part of story

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Henny Hughes romped in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special (above) but was upset in the Hopeful.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Saturday's Grade 1 is being billed as a rematch between Hopeful one-two finishers First Samurai and Henny Hughes. Patrick Biancone, the trainer of Henny Hughes, says that is a mistake.

"There are some very talented horses in this race," Biancone said Thursday. "It's not a two-horse race. There are eight very, very qualified 2-year-olds. As you know, these babies change a lot."

Horses like Superfly, Deputy Glitters, Menacing, and Too Much Bling make the Champagne a pretty competitive race. The Champagne, run at one mile for the first time since 1993, serves as an important stepping-stone to the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile, to be run here on Oct. 29.

The Champagne will be shown live on NBC Sports in a 90-minute telecast beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern. It is also the third leg of an NTRA National Pick 4 that includes the Frizette from Belmont and the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity and Shadwell Turf Mile from Keeneland. There is a guaranteed pool of $400,000.

Henny Hughes won his first three starts by a combined 24 3/4 lengths, including the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, a race in which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 105. In the Hopeful, however, he was no match for First Samurai, who overcame a bit of greenness to win by an emphatic 4 1/2 lengths. That victory kept First Samurai undefeated in three starts and vaulted him to the top of the juvenile division.

Biancone offered no excuse for Henny Hughes's dull Hopeful, saying simply that First Samurai was better on the day. Henny Hughes has been training brilliantly over the Saratoga training track.

"Read the works before the Hopeful and before this race - I have twist a little bit more the screw," Biancone said. "He's working well. Everything is in good form. I think we have a chance to return the favor."

Henny Hughes drew post 6, while First Samurai is in post 7.

In an attempt to stop First Samurai from lugging in as he did in two races at Saratoga, trainer Frank Brothers changed the bit on the colt. The ring bit that he is now using is designed to give the rider more control. It certainly seemed to do the trick last Saturday, when Jerry Bailey guided First Samurai through a five-furlong workout in 58.44 seconds, easily going past two Bill Mott-trained horses.

"I thought he breezed excellent," Bailey said. "He went faster than I thought he went. It wasn't a breeze so much to make him come from behind; more to see if I could maneuver him wherever he is. He was great.

"The other two times I worked him at Saratoga he did have a tendency to lug in," he said. "The other day here at Belmont he didn't."

Said Brothers: "My biggest concern is that he races a little more professional than he's been running. If he doesn't do that, he is going to be in trouble. I look for him to straighten his game out a little bit."

Trainer Nick Zito seeks his fifth Champagne victory since 1998 with Superfly. After running third and second in two of the better maiden races at Saratoga, Superfly won the Whirling Ash Stakes at Delaware Park as a maiden.

Though Superfly raced on the lead that day, Zito said he doesn't think he needs to be on the lead to run well.

Too Much Bling finished third behind First Samurai and Henny Hughes in the Hopeful. He was forced to go to the front because he had the rail that day. His connections have been working him behind horses and believe he can rate. Too Much Bling will race in blinkers.

"The blinkers were to help focus him," said Tonja Terranova, who is overseeing Too Much Bling's training for Bob Baffert. "He's been going off easy and coming home good in his works."

Trainer Tim Ritchey has entered both Kid Lemonade and Menacing in three races: the Champagne, the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity, and the Dover Stakes at Delaware Park. Kid Lemonade drew post 13 at Keeneland and has the rail here, neither a good spot. Menacing, a first-out winner at Delaware, would benefit from an expected hot pace in this race.

The field

Champagne Stakes
Purse: $500,000; 1 mile; Grade 1

1Kid LemonadeR. Albarado15-1
2MenacingJ. Rose15-1
3Too Much BlingJ. Castellano6-1
4SuperflyE. Coa8-1
5Greater FoolS. Bridgmohan12-1
6Henny HughesG. Stevens2-1
7First SamuraiJ. Bailey7-5
8Deputy GlittersJ. Velazquez12-1

* All starters carry 122 pounds
* Odds by Dan Illman
* Television: Saturday, 4:30-6 p.m. (Eastern), NBC