03/16/2005 12:00AM

Brazilian import looks legit


SAN MATEO, Calif. - His credentials are impeccable.

Senhor Cati started three times in his native Brazil and recorded three victories, by 9 1/4, 10 1/4, and 6 1/4 lengths.

On Friday, he makes his U.S. debut, running in a first-level allowance race for trainer Paulo Lobo. But is he the one to beat in the Bay Meadows feature?

Imports with spectacular records such as his can be a bit suspect depending on what type of competition they have faced. Senhor Cati looks as if he could be the real deal. He is eligible for this race despite having three career victories because of the small purses he ran for in South America.

He has worked well, too. One month ago he turned in a strong six-furlong work in 1:12.80 at Hollywood Park, the second-best of 24 at the distance. He has had three works since, including a half-mile gate drill in 46.80 seconds that was the best of 34 on Saturday.

Lobo has enjoyed great success with Brazilian imports, winning the 2002 Eclipse Award for 3-year-old fillies with Farda Amiga. And he has positive numbers for flat-bet profits with similar types of runners.

draws a comfortable outside post and gets jockey Francisco Duran.

Those signs are all positive. But several others might steer bettors elsewhere should Senhor Cati reign as a heavy favorite.

As well as his U.S. debut, this is Senhor Cati's first start in 363 days. Also, Senhor Cati is still technically a 3-year-old - he is a September foal - even though he is considered a 4-year-old in the Northern Hemisphere.

Senhor Cati has never run on a fast track, but there is a chance of rain.

The works, particularly the last one, hint at speed, but he will be meeting older here, and he has faced only 14 rivals in his three Brazilian starts. He's facing 10 today.

The one to bet may be , who has won two of three starts and comes off a four-length victory against starter allowance company. He has decent speed and has shown an ability to keep going late.

In addition, Zackary's Verbatim had a bullet drill for his final work, a somewhat pedestrian 1:02 that was best of eight for five furlongs.