08/30/2003 12:00AM

Silver Wagon surprises


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - As fast as Silver Wagon established himself as one of the better 2-year-olds of the year was as fast as trainer Ralph Ziadie plans to put him away.

Splitting horses under Jerry Bailey in midstretch, Silver Wagon came home a four-length winner over heavily favored Chapel Royal in Saturday's Grade 1, $200,000 Hopeful before 23,137 at Saratoga. It was 1 1/2 lengths back to longshot Notorious Rogue in third. Birdstone, an impressive maiden winner earlier in the meet, finished fourth.

While the Hopeful is considered a big step on the road to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Ziadie said he has no plans to send the horse to that $1 million race on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita.

"The big boys are next year,'' said Ziadie, who trains Silver Wagon for Mahmoud Fustok's Buckram Oak Farm. "I don't want to go to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.''

If Silver Wagon runs again this year, it would most likely be in the $100,000 What a Pleasure Stakes at Calder on Dec. 13.

The way Silver Wagon ran Saturday, plus his breeding - he's a son of Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Wagon Limit - suggests that Silver Wagon could be a major player in the Kentucky Derby picture next year.

Silver Wagon raced between horses in the second flight behind a four-pronged fight for the lead. With Bailey poised to go inside or outside in the stretch, he chose inside when Chapel Royal, who raced four wide and on the pace down the backside, drifted out a step. Silver Wagon bounded home an easy winner.

Silver Wagon covered the seven furlongs in 1:23.47 over a fast track. He returned $27 to win.

"He put himself into the race," said Bailey, who won his fifth Hopeful. "I didn't have anywhere to go so there was no sense in trying to go anywhere. I was biding my time until there was an opening and to see if I had enough horse to go through it. He didn't burst through, he waited for me to call on him and it took him a little bit to get his momentum going, which would suggest he'd go on with no problem.''

Chapel Royal suffered his first defeat after winning his first three career races, including the Grade 2 Sanford. Jockey John Velazquez said the horse felt weak behind to him.

"`But I don't want to make any excuses, he just didn't punch,'' Velazquez said.