12/05/2009 12:00AM

Briecat shooting for repeat

Benoit & Associates
Briecat will be targeting a repeat in the $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap on Saturday at Hollywood Park.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - This has been a tough year for the 4-year-old filly Briecat. Twice she lost to Horse of the Year candidate Zenyatta, including running a game second in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap in June.

Zenyatta is retired, which gives Briecat a better chance to end her 2009 campaign with a win in Saturday's $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood Park. Briecat won the race last year in a 13-1 upset, and has subsequently won only one race, the Adoration Stakes at Del Mar.

She has not started since finishing seventh behind Zenyatta in the Grade 1 Lady's Secret Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 10. The eight-week break since the Lady's Secret has helped Briecat, trainer Vladimir Cerin said.

"She's feeling good and is carrying good weight, more so than her last few races," Cerin said.

Cerin needs jockey Martin Garcia to settle Briecat in the first half-mile of the Bayakoa, which has drawn 11 fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on the Cushion Track. Briecat led throughout the 2008 Bayakoa, but raced from off the pace when she won the Adoration Stakes over a mile. She will need to show patience starting from post 10 in a Bayakoa field that includes several front-runners.

"It's a big field and we've got a bad post," Cerin said. "The track doesn't seem to be quite as speed-favoring as it was last year."

In the Lady's Secret Stakes over the Santa Anita Pro-Ride, Briecat led to the eighth pole and was beaten 7 1/2 lengths by Zenyatta.

"That track is not conducive to her style at all," Cerin said. "She likes it here a lot better."

A fast pace is expected to be set by the minor stakes winners Czechers and Zardana. That should help closers such as Teamgeist, who was third in the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes at Keeneland in October, and Smooth Performer, who was second in the Cat's Cradle Handicap over 7 1/2 furlongs here on Nov. 15.

Teamgeist was a fast-closing sixth in the Grade 2 Las Palmas Handicap at Santa Anita on Nov. 6.

Smooth Performer will be helped by the longer distance, trainer Clifford Sise said.

"This is more her kind of race," Sise said. "I expected her to win the other day. She might have been a little too far back."

* In the third race on Saturday, Feisty Suances seeks his second stakes win of the year in the $50,000 Contested Bid Stakes for 3-year-olds on turf.