10/05/2007 11:00PM

War Pass wires field in Champagne

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Deborah Kral/Horsephotos
War Pass leads gate to wire in the Champagne to remain unbeaten.
ELMONT, N.Y. - The East Coast's juvenile division was turned upside down Saturday at Belmont Park as War Pass galloped to a 1 1/2-length gate-to-wire victory in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes while race favorites Majestic Warrior and Ready's Image finished sixth and last, respectively.

The victory was the third in as many starts for War Pass, who earned a spot in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park because the $400,000 Champagne is part of the "Win and You're In" Breeders' Cup Challenge. The last Champagne winner to also win the Juvenile was Timber Country in 1994. Since then, Champagne winners are 0 for 9 in the Juvenile.

Meanwhile, the dull efforts of

graded stakes winners Majestic Warrior and Ready's Image put their Breeders' Cup participation in serious doubt.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said multiple stakes winner Ready's Image would not be pointed to the Juvenile. Bill Mott, trainer of Grade 1 Hopeful winner Majestic Warrior, said he would wait before making any decisions.

War Pass, owned by Robert LaPenta, gave trainer Nick Zito his fifth Champagne victory, all since 1998.

War Pass, a son of Cherokee Run, took charge of the Champagne right out of the gate, opening a three-length advantage while running fractions of 22.87 seconds and 45.72 under Cornelio Velasquez. He remained unchallenged through six furlongs in 1:10.24 and was never seriously threatened while covering the mile in 1:36.12. Pyro, a 32-1 shot, finished second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Z Humor, a 35-1 shot. War Pass returned $11.20 to win.

"He broke good, he wanted to go to the lead," Velasquez said. "I don't want to fight him. He relaxed on the lead. I had a lot of horse at the three-eighth pole."

The fast fractions were no problem for Zito, who said he wanted his horse on the lead.

"That's the way he's been running, that's the way he wants to run," said Zito, who won his first Grade 1 since In the Gold took the 2005 Gazelle. "We said so be it, and he just kept coming. That was a tremendous effort."

Majestic Warrior and Ready's Image raced fourth and fifth down the backside, but were basically done midway through the far turn. Garrett Gomez, the rider of Majestic Warrior told Mott that the horse switched back to his right lead around the turn.

"That leads me to believe that something's bugging him," Mott said. "He was moving like a crab around the turn. He didn't look comfortable at all."