03/04/2005 12:00AM

Casual Cat's speed vs. Metcalfe's class

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Casual Cat, who earned a Beyer Figure

of 96 in his last start, and Metcalfe, who was second to the red-hot Rodeo's Castle in his most recent race, make the featured ninth race Sunday at Oaklawn Park a matchup of speed and class. The six-furlong allowance race for nonwinners-of-two has a purse of $33,000.

Casual Cat won his maiden by four lengths here on Feb. 17, and one day after the race, his trainer, Steve Hobby, was still fielding congratulatory calls on the gelding's impressive win.

"He is fast," said Hobby.

Indeed. Casual Cat earned a career-best Beyer for the win, and since the race has worked a bullet four furlongs in 47.60 seconds. He is a son of Tale of the Cat, sire of the world-record $5.2 million juvenile sold last week at Fasig-Tipton's sale at Calder Race Course.

Tim Doocy has the mount on Casual Cat, who is a threat to wire the field Sunday.

Metcalfe can stalk, and he used that tactic last time when he finished second by nine lengths to Rodeo's Castle in an entry-level allowance here on Feb. 11. Rodeo's Castle returned to win a two-other-than allowance, and for both wins earned a Beyer of 98. He may run next in the $50,000 Hot Springs.

That speaks well for Metcalfe, since horses are sometimes best judged by the class of company they keep. Metcalfe shows two strong works since his meeting with Rodeo's Castle, and will break from the rail under Jesus Barria.

Metcalfe, a son of Menifee trained by D. Wayne Lukas, is a half-brother to Bluegrass Beat, a stakes winner of $158,046.

The field also includes Glennon, who defeated Casual Cat two starts ago then came back and ran third in a two-turn allowance last out in his first start against winners. He showed speed in the route start, and figures to be a late threat on the cutback. He used closing tactics to win his maiden Jan. 29. John McKee will ride for trainer Bob Holthus.

I Mena Business, who was fifth last out in an allowance that has produced return winners Promontory and Stormy Business, is also appealing for the company he has kept. In his second start he was third to City Code, who went on to place in two stakes. Jeff Burningham has the mount for trainer Jearl Hare.