05/31/2006 11:00PM

Ambitious Cat starts season

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Ambitious Cat, last year's champion turf female in Canada, launches her 2006 Woodbine campaign Saturday in the Grade 2, $300,000 Nassau Stakes.

A Storm Cat mare, Ambitious Cat was a solid allowance performer before the 2005 Nassau, in which she finished second to favored American invader Que Puntual. Ambitious Cat went on to be second in the Grade 2 Canadian Handicap, and the highlight of her campaign was a half-length loss to Honey Ryder and Latice in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes on Oct. 23.

Trainer Eric Coatrieux said Ambitious Cat developed a foot problem after the Taylor.

"She had a stone bruise in one of her feet," Coatrieux said. "It turned into a bit of an abscess. We tried to go easy with her for a while, and she came around good."

Ambitious Cat finished fifth in both of her outings this year, in graded stakes at Gulfstream and Keeneland, and earned a 92 Beyer Speed Figure in both races. A half-sister to Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Blushing K.D., Ambitious Cat has yet to win a stakes, and a victory in the Nassau would enhance her already considerable value.

Naissance Royale, based at Belmont with trainer Christophe Clement, is the probable favorite in the 1 1/16-mile race. Since coming from France and adding Lasix, Naissance Royale has excelled in North America. She captured the Grade 2 Lake Placid Stakes at Saratoga last summer and finished fourth, beaten three-quarters of a length, to Sweet Talker in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Keeneland. After winning a second-level allowance at Gulfstream, she dropped a head decision to Pommes Frites in the Grade 3 Beaugay Handicap last time at Aqueduct.

Hallowed Dream has shipped in from California off an impressive score in the Grade 3 Yerba Buena BC Handicap at Golden Gate Fields. She also won her three previous starts, including two Santa Anita allowances. Ben Cecil trains Hallowed Dream, who was second in the Group 1 Italian Oaks nearly a year ago.

Also in the Nassau field are Invitational, Black Rock Road, Ballroom Deputy, and Kabul.

Invitational toiled on the main track last year before trainer Catherine Day Phillips put her on the grass, and she has won 3 of 4 starts over that surface. She finished second to Silver Highlight in the Wonder Where and has not started since taking the restricted Carotene Stakes in October.