04/01/2008 11:00PM

Beulah: Catlaunch going strong

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Last weekend was a big one for the connections of 7-year-old Catlaunch, who won as Handicap Horse of the Year at the Ohio Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders banquet at Darby Dan Farm in Galloway, Ohio, on Friday night.

In the sixth race on Saturday, a six-furlong optional claiming race, Catlaunch had a successful return to the races after a layoff. Catlaunch last ran Nov. 17 of last year, in the Kirchberg at Beulah, winning by three lengths in the 1 1/8-mile event. Trained by Ivan Vazquez, Catlaunch is headed to the Babst/Palacios at Beulah on closing day, May 3.

"He really dug in Saturday," said Vazquez. "With all of the bad weather, I wasn't sure if he would be ready, but he is one of those that you always hope to find, he has so much heart."

Catlaunch, ridden by Ivan Gonzalez, won by three-quarters of a length in a final time of 1:09.97, the fastest six furlongs since the track's new surface was put down in December.

That time was the fastest for all of one race, as an up-and-coming Ohio-bred, Marble Cliff, was very impressive in the seventh race Saturday. Marble Cliff, owned by Foxwood Stable, whose principals are Charlie Ruma and Joe Sugar, the majority and minority owners of Beulah Park, won his six-furlong allowance race in 1:09.90, destroying the field of nine other Ohio-breds and winning by 9 1/4 lengths. It was the second lifetime start for Marble Cliff, a 3-year-old son of Jump Start. He won his maiden race at first asking Feb. 8 by 9 1/4 lengths as well.

According to his trainer, Doug Cowans, "He seems like the farther he goes, the better he will get. He is a big horse with a long stride."

In his first race, Marble Cliff led throughout. Saturday, he was third early and a few lengths off the pace.

"He is a little green still - he doesn't really know what he is doing yet," said Cowans. "When he came to the leader entering the stretch, he kind of looked over and kept watching him. The rider tapped him on the shoulder, and he hit another gear and drew away."

Marble Cliff is being pointed to the H.B. Noonan for 3-year-old Ohio-breds, a race originally scheduled for April 16, but changed to April 26 to compensate for training time lost when winter weather caused the Beulah surface to repeatedly freeze and thaw.