06/05/2008 12:00AM

Two Hopeful rivals end up in Stephens


ELMONT, N.Y. - Hopeful Day ordinarily provides a sneak peek of contenders in Triple Crown races. It did last summer, only not the way anyone expected. Two hours before Majestic Warrior ran down 3-5 shot Ready's Image to put an exclamation point on Bill Mott's ninth Saratoga training title, a first-time starter named Big Brown turned heads winning a maiden turf route at 14-1, and the rest is history.

Majestic Warrior and Ready's Image had a rematch in the Champagne, but both finished far back and were taken out of training soon afterward - Majestic Warrior with an injured left front hoof, Ready's Image with a chip in his left knee that required surgery. Nine months later, they meet again in Saturday's $250,000 Woody Stephens at seven furlongs.

Majestic Warrior showed a glimmer of his old form five weeks ago, when cut back to 7 1/2 furlongs and equipped with blinkers to run fourth in the Derby Trial.

Ready's Image made his season debut in the Adjudicating Stakes here May 14, and rallied through the stretch to post a hard-fought win at odds-on.

"I thought it was good," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "I like the way he settled off the pace. We were trying to get a race and perform well without overdoing it, since [the Woody Stephens] was our first goal, so I think we were able to accomplish that."

The pace should be hotly contested between True Quality, who led to the stretch call of the Adjudicating, and J Be K, whose three wins include a track-record debut at Saratoga for Bob Baffert and a five-length victory in the Bay Shore for Steve Asmussen.

J Be K shortens up after running second in the one-mile Withers.

Also entered are Silver Edition, who earned a career-best Beyer (100) finishing second in the Hirsch Jacobs last out; Groomedforvictory, a New York-bred who overcame trouble to win a restricted overnight stakes here May 7; Woodbine invader Fatal Bullet; Ling Ling Qi, third in the Matt Winn last out; and Run With Me.

Fatal Bullet is 3 for 3 this year for Reade Baker, who shipped in opening weekend to win the Bouwerie Stakes with 10-1 shot Northern Netti. Fatal Bullet has won 4 of 5 starts on Polytrack, "but works every bit as good on dirt," said Baker. "His last two races, he just drowned them."