06/26/2002 11:00PM

Two speedy juveniles go head to head


ELMONT, N.Y. - Zavata and Hussar, the two most impressive maiden 2-year-old winners in New York this spring, square off in an early-season matchup in Saturday's $100,000 Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park.

Zavata, purchased for $575,000 at the Fasig-Tipton 2-year-old-in-training sale in February, overcame a slight stumble at the break to win his maiden by 5 1/2 lengths on May 27. Jockey Jerry Bailey never moved his hands from Zavata's neck in the race yet still ran five furlongs in 57.61 seconds, including a final eighth of 11.82 seconds.

That race came 23 days after Zavata debuted in the Three Chimneys Juvenile Stakes on Kentucky Derby Day, finishing second behind the unbeaten filly Holiday Runner.

"From day one, we knew he was a very good horse,'' trainer Patrick Biancone said. "The first time out we took a gamble, but he was in good form. Most of the horses had already run once. He may have won if he had run once.''

Since winning his maiden, Zavata has been training in Saratoga, where on June 14 he drilled four furlongs in an eye-opening 47.20 seconds over the Oklahoma training track. His two works since then were more controlled, Biancone said.

"We know he can do it,'' Biancone said of working fast. "We don't want to do it every day.''

Bailey, a three-time Tremont winner, rides Zavata from the outside post in the five-horse field.

Hussar, a son of Silver Deputy, won his maiden by 5 1/4 lengths on June 16. Over a sealed track labeled muddy, Hussar covered five furlongs in 57.42 seconds - his last eighth was 12.33 seconds - under a vigorous hand ride from John Velazquez. Trainer Todd Pletcher said he felt the race did not take much out of Hussar, which is why he is running him back on short notice.

Pletcher will also send out Windsor Lodge, who suffered only a few scrapes in the Flash Stakes when he fell over Renegade Warrior, who had broken down nearing the stretch. Edgar Prado rides Windsor Lodge as Velazquez as opted to stick with Hussar.

Private Emblem no lock

Though he takes a major class drop, Arkansas Derby winner Private Emblem still faces several obstacles in Saturday's $75,000 Mike Lee Handicap for 3-year-old New York-breds. Making his first start since a 14th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, Private Emblem must break from the inside post in the seven-furlong race while carrying co-high weight of 123 pounds.

In his favor is the fact that Private Emblem won his maiden over this track last September, beating Mike Lee contender No Parole by 7 3/4 lengths. "He's a big, tall skinny horse, but he's fast,'' Asmussen said.

Trial Prep could be the horse to beat in the Mike Lee. A son of Ormsby, Trial Prep has won three of his four starts, and his one loss came when he stumbled badly at the start and came flying to just miss by one-half length. Bailey has the call from post 3 under 123 pounds.

Lord Ofthe Thunder, No Parole, and Say Cousin Lenny are all contenders from off the pace.

The Mike Lee is the first leg of the Big Apple Triple, which includes the New York Derby and the Albany.