03/24/2005 12:00AM

Beulah: Yankee Road on a roll

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Yankee Road goes for his fourth straight victory and heads a full field of 12 Ohio-bred 3-year-olds in the $40,000 Howard B. Noonan Stakes at Beulah Park.

Though Beulah has been racing for the past 2 1/2 months, the six-furlong Noonan is the first stakes of the year in Ohio.

Yankee Road returned from a seven-month layoff at Beulah Feb. 11 and overcame a slow start to defeat older allowance rivals by 7 1/4 lengths for trainer Albert Palacios.

Yankee Road skipped a condition in his next start, taking on nonwinners-of-four older allowance rivals here on March 16. Yankee Road responded with a front-running three-length victory under Ivan Gonzalez, running his career record to 3 wins in 4 starts. Palacios, who co-owns and bred Yankee Road with Shazam Stables, has given Gonzalez a return call on Saturday.

Fierce Cat is the most accomplished member of the Noonan field, with two stakes victories, both last year. Fierce Cat was a gate-to-wire, eight-length winner in the $40,000 Loyalty Stakes last September and rated just off the pace before rallying to capture the $60,000 Ohio Juvenile Championship at 1 1/16 miles one month later. Both stakes wins came at Thistledown for trainer Bill Napier.

Fierce Cat has been on the sidelines since finishing sixth, beaten 9 3/4 lengths as the 6-5 favorite, here on Nov. 14 in the six-furlong Ohio Freshman Stakes. He completed his year with a record of 3-2-0 from 9 starts, good for $80,000 in earnings. Nathan Solomon has the mount aboard Fierce Cat, who is the 122-pound co-highweight in the Noonan.

Opening Wager, trained by Tim Hamm, is the other stakes winner in the Noonan field, having upset Fierce Cat at 29-1 in the Ohio Freshman here last November. He will be making his first start since the Freshman on Saturday, and Casey Chavez picks up the mount.