01/16/2009 1:00AM

Alpha Kitten backs up to seven furlongs


ARCADIA, Calif. - Alpha Kitten's reputation as a leading 2-year-old prospect was dented by her fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet last month.

"I left the track scratching my head not knowing what to think," trainer John Sadler said.

Maybe the distance of 1 1/16 miles did not suit Alpha Kitten. Perhaps the race strategy, when several rivals made a move toward the lead on the backstretch, hurt her chances.

Regardless, Sadler is not asking as much of Alpha Kitten in Saturday's $150,000 Santa Ynez Stakes, which is run at seven furlongs for 3-year-old fillies. Sadler thinks that a turnback in distance will suit Alpha Kitten.

"We're taking a step backward to a race I know she can handle on the distance," Sadler said. "It looks like the smart thing to do for this race."

Owned by breeders Jerry and Ann Moss, Alpha Kitten has 1 victory in 3 starts, a maiden race at Del Mar last summer. She was second as the 7-10 favorite in the Anoakia Stakes at six furlongs here in October.

In the Grade 2 Santa Ynez, Alpha Kitten may go favored. Sadler also trains the only stakes winner in the field, Evita Argentina, who won the Moccasin Stakes at seven furlongs at Hollywood Park in November, her most recent start.

Evita Argentina is undefeated - in races that do not include Stardom Bound, the leading 2-year-old filly of 2008. Evita Argentina won her first two starts, including the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar in August, and then lost her next two starts to Stardom Bound - a fourth in the Del Mar Debutante and a ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

She was a 6-1 outsider in the Moccasin, rallying from last of 11 to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

"Right now, it looks like her best distance is seven-eighths," Sadler said.

Empressive Lady chased Stardom Bound in two Grade 1 stakes last year, finishing fifth in the Del Mar Debutante and 11th in the Oak Leaf Stakes. The Santa Ynez will be her first start since September.

Deeveetee, trained by Mark Casse, has won at this meeting, in an optional claimer going six furlongs on Dec. 31. She was unplaced in two stakes at Woodbine last year when she was not fully prepared for racing, according to Casse assistant Ricky Griffin.

"She was a bit of a shy kind of horse" last year, Griffin said. "I think she's figured out the game a little better. She can come from off the pace."