07/22/2002 11:00PM

Without Zavata, Sanford unclear

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Although the East Coast's leading 2-year-old - Zavata - is staying in the barn, Thursday's $150,000 Sanford Stakes still drew an intriguing field of nine, including shippers from New Jersey, Florida, and Kentucky.

There is nothing amiss with Zavata, who just missed the Belmont track record for 5 1/2 furlongs when he won the Tremont by 6 1/4 lengths on June 29. Trainer Patrick Biancone is just waiting for the Saratoga Special on Aug. 14.

Biancone has a suitable backup for the Grade 2 Sanford in Whywhywhy, a 5 1/2-length winner of the Flash Stakes on June 7 in a race in which he had to steady to avoid a spill. Whywhywhy was racing with the leaders when front-runner Renegade Warrior fell and Windsor Lodge fell over him. Whywhywhy was left with a clear advantage turning for home and was not challenged as he completed five furlongs in 57.10 seconds.

"I guess if he can go 57 jumping horses he could run faster if he doesn't have to jump a horse," said Biancone, whose horse will break from post 5 under Edgar Prado. "He came out of the race with a couple of cuts, but he's recovered well."

The competition Whywhywhy faces in the six-furlong Sanford is significantly stronger than the field he met in the Flash.

Wildcat Heir, a full brother to stakes winners Forest Heir and Forest Heiress, could be the horse to beat. Wildcat Heir won his maiden at first asking by 2 3/4 lengths over Farno, who came back to win last weekend's Tyro Stakes at Monmouth.

"He had trained real well before he ran, and he's always been a real good-looking horse, and he didn't disappoint," trainer Ben Perkins Jr. said. "He's nice and relaxed, but he has that acceleration. We had him just ready to run but he did most of it on his own." Jerry Bailey will ride from post 2.

Steve Asmussen sends out Posse, who won the Kentucky Breeders' Cup on May 27, but was upset by Lone Star Sky in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor. In that race, Donnie Meche may have used Posse a little early in an attempt to clear the other speed and save some ground. In the end, it may not have mattered, as Lone Star Sky romped to a 3 1/2-length win in a stakes-record time of 1:09.68.

"I think we know what went wrong in the last race, and it'll be corrected," said Scott Blasi, Asmussen's assistant.

On Monday, Posse worked four furlongs in 49.78 seconds in company with Arkansas Derby winner Private Emblem, who was clocked in the same time.

Florida shipper Hear No Evil has won three consecutive starts since adding blinkers. On June 18 he equaled Calder's track record for 5 1/2 furlongs winning an allowance race, then came back to post an off-the-pace victory in the Criterium Stakes. Trainer Tim Ritvo has taken over the training from James Hatchett.

John Salzman, best known as the trainer of Xtra Heat, appears to have a nice 2-year-old colt in Run Production. A Saint Ballado colt, he won his maiden by 6 1/4 lengths on July 7 at Monmouth Park and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 96, the highest in this field.

After winning his maiden race by 5 1/4 lengths in the mud on June 16, Hussar came back 13 days later in the Tremont and set the early pace before being inhaled by Zavata.

"I thought he performed well. He ran into a horse that was a little more seasoned and ran a spectacular race," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "One of the reasons we're pushing on toward this race is because Zavata is not. John Velazquez thought afterward that our horse could improve quite a bit off that."

Title Contender, Spite the Devil, and Raise An Emblem complete the field.