09/04/2004 12:00AM

All signs point to 'Caribbean'


Caribbean Cruiser will be a heavy favorite Monday to win the second of three juvenile stakes of the Finger Lakes meet, the $217,000 New York Breeders' Futurity for New York-breds at six furlongs.

The New York Breeders' Futurity is the featured stakes race of three on the Labor Day card, all for New York-breds. The $75,000 New York Oaks kicks off the stakes triple, followed by the $50,000 Genesee Valley Breeders' Handicap and the New York Breeders' Futurity. They will be run as races 7 through 9.

Caribbean Cruiser was dominant in winning the Aspirant Stakes for statebreds on Aug. 21. He broke to the lead and was under a hand ride the entire stretch, winning by 3 3/4 lengths. He returns seemingly just as sharp as he was heading into that race, having recorded a bullet three-furlong workout in 34 seconds Sept. 1. Chin Yang, aboard for both career races, gets the return call.

Caribbean Cruiser's trainer, Donna Bireta, and owner, Star Track Farms, won last year's New York Breeders' Futurity with the filly Mother's Sacrifice. Mother's Sacrifice starts on the card in the New York Oaks. Star Track Farms won the 1989 running of this race with another filly, Jack Betta Be Rite, who is the dam of Caribbean Cruiser.

Only four horses faced Caribbean Cruiser in the Aspirant. On Monday, only five are entered against him. Caribbean Cruiser won a maiden race at Saratoga on July 30, earning an 82 Beyer Speed Figure, and he earned an 83 in the Aspirant.

Big Apple Daddy ran second to Caribbean Cruiser in the Aspirant, but must move forward significantly to defeat his rival on Monday.

Oaks: So Sweet a Cat the one to beat

So Sweet a Cat, second in the New York Breeders' Futurity last year, is the likely favorite in the 1 1/16-mile New York Oaks off her first two-turn effort, which came at Saratoga in the $250,000 Statue of Liberty Stakes at 1 1/8 miles, part of the New York Stallion Series.

In her first race beyond seven furlongs, So Sweet a Cat drew off in the stretch to win the Statue of Liberty by eight lengths. Though she is an accomplished sprinter, having won a statebred stakes at Aqueduct in November, her blowout performance at a route, in which she recorded an 89 Beyer Speed Figure, adds another dimension.

So Sweet a Cat is a homebred owned by Jane Freed and trained by Ralph D'Alessandro. In 11 career starts, she has five wins and has finished worse than third only once. John Grabowski picks up the mount Monday.

Genesee Valley: Sherpa Guide tries to end drought

Tom Bush ships in Sherpa Guide from his Belmont barn for the Genesee Valley Breeders' Handicap. Sherpa Guide was second to Spite the Devil in the Evan Shipman Handicap at Belmont on July 25 and has the highest career Beyer Speed Figure in the field, a 105 he recorded in the Grade 3 Iselin at Monmouth last year.

Though he has been facing tougher company than the rest of the field, Sherpa Guide is winless in the last two years. Aaron Gryder, aboard in the Evan Shipman, comes in from Saratoga to ride.

Halo Malone has the best chance of the local contingent. He may be the controlling speed in the race, and trainer James Wright runs him back only 10 days after a career-best allowance score by six lengths at Finger Lakes.