07/02/2007 12:00AM

Though still a maiden, Booted has most buzz


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The rankings of the early-season 2-year-old males in Southern California are a bit messy so far this year. That figures to change after Wednesday's $100,000 Hollywood Juvenile Championship at Hollywood Park.

Several colts can assume the role of division leader.

The maiden winners Leonides, Salute the Sarge, Sky Cape, and Whatever Whenever, and the maiden Booted are the leading candidates in the Grade 3 Juvenile Championship, which is run at six furlongs.

Booted may go favored.

An A.P. Indy colt owned by B. Wayne Hughes and trained by Richard Mandella, Booted finished a head behind Sky Cape in a maiden race at 4 1/2 furlongs on May 20. Booted was sixth early and fourth with a furlong remaining before rallying to finish well.

"He ran a terrific race, and he did show how good he might be," Mandella said. "I like the six furlongs."

Booted will have several speedy colts to catch in the stretch of the Juvenile Championship. Sky Cape, who worked a half-mile in 46.20 seconds on Friday, starts from the rail. Whatever Whenever, a two-length winner of a five-furlong race on June 10, is likely to be near the front.

Trained by Peter Miller, Whatever Whenever will be ridden by Victor Espinoza. He replaces Corey Nakatani, who is riding at Belmont Park on Wednesday.

"Victor can put him wherever he wants to be," Miller said of Whatever Whenever. "He's very fast, but he's rateable. I'd like to see him sitting just off" the pace.

Leonides and Salute the Sarge won maiden races by rallying from off the pace. Leonides won his debut at 5 1/2 furlongs by 1 1/4 lengths on June 16, rallying from fifth in a field of 10 to post a 19-1 upset.

Salute the Sarge holds the five-furlong track record of 58.29 seconds, set in a half-length win on June 3. Trained by Eric Guillot, Salute the Sarge rallied from sixth in a field of 10.

"I knew he was a nice horse, but sometimes you never know what they'll do," Guillot said. "I don't think he's a five-furlong horse. I set him up to run that kind of race. I worked him with a horse in front of him."

Guillot said Salute the Sarge has got more speed than he showed in his maiden win.