NEW YORK - First Samurai could be a champion in the making.
Taking the lead from rival Henny Hughes in the stretch, First Samurai pulled off to a 23/4-length victory in Saturday's $500,000 Champagne Stakes at rain-drenched Belmont Park.
The 2-year-old's win improved his mark to 4-for-4 and firmly established First Samurai as the favorite for the $1.5-million Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Oct.29 at Belmont.
"He's about as good as it gets for 2-year-olds," trainer Frank Brothers said.
Earlier, Adieu lived up to her billing as the top 2-year-old filly with a 2-length victory over Along the Sea in the $500,000 Frizette. She likely will be the favorite for the Juvenile Fillies on Breeders' Cup day.
In the Champagne, Too Much Bling and Henny Hughes got caught in a speed duel, with First Samurai racing well back in the six-horse field.
When the leaders turned for home, First Samurai, with a little urging from jockey Jerry Bailey, made his move on the outside and ran straight as an arrow to the finish. In his previous two wins, the chestnut son of Giant's Causeway lugged in down the stretch.
Bailey won the Champagne for the fourth time. The Hall of Fame rider won aboard Birdstone in 2003, Sea Hero in 1992 and Copeland in 1982.
In another race with Juvenile implications, 36-1 shot Dawn of War won the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland by 31/2 lengths. Laity, the 3-1 favorite, finished fifth.