12/01/2008 12:00AM

Belmont Cat primed for U.S. debut


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - A big week for New Zealand-bred fillies and mares starts Wednesday when highly regarded Belmont Cat makes her U.S. debut in an allowance race at Hollywood Park; Black Mamba faces males Saturday in the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup at 1 1/2 miles.

John Sadler trains New Zealand-breds Belmont Cat and Black Mamba for Doubledown Stables and expects Belmont Cat to come out firing in race 7.

"We have high expectations. We think she's a good one," Sadler said.

It is not a secret. Belmont Cat won 2 of 7 in New Zealand, including a May 3 stakes by more than four lengths that was the final race in a sequence of listed stakes that earned Belmont Cat the series title of New Zealand Bloodstock Southern Filly of the Year.

Despite not having raced in seven months, Sadler said Belmont Cat is ready.

"We don't think she'll need a race. We'll be disappointed with anything other than a good race," he said.

Chalk players will be disappointed with anything other than a win. Belmont Cat has a strong work pattern for her comeback, and the second-level allowance at a mile on turf is not particularly strong. Mike Smith rides Belmont Cat, whose main rivals are East Coast-shipper Contentious and stakes-placed Christmas Ship.

Belmont Cat would not be the first Sadler-trained New Zealand import to win first out in the United States. Crossing the Line won his debut for Sadler and Doubledown in May 2007; Black Mamba won her U.S. debut for the same connections in August 2007 before developing into one of the circuit's leading grass fillies.

Black Mamba entered the Matriarch at one mile on Sunday; she scratched in favor of the 1 1/2-mile Hollywood Turf Cup this coming Saturday.

"One mile is a little short for her, and I've always wanted to run her farther than a mile and a quarter," Sadler said.

Although Black Mamba will face males for the first time in the United States, she figures as a contender against last year's second-, third-, and fourth-place Turf Cup finishers - Champs Elysees, Spring House, and Obrigado. Rush Rush, Winchester, Church Service, and Good Request also may run.

Black Mamba won the Grade 1 John C. Mabee Handicap in summer at Del Mar and the Grade 2 Beverly Hills Handicap at 1 1/4 miles in summer at Hollywood Park.