03/28/2002 12:00AM

Cat Cay vs. Raging Fever in Round 3


JAMAICA, N.Y. - Round 3 in the Cat Cay vs. Raging Fever rivalry takes place Saturday in the $150,000 Distaff Breeders' Cup at Aqueduct.

Cat Cay and Raging Fever, who have traded victories in two Gulfstream Park stakes this year, head a solid field of six older fillies and mares in the Grade 2 Distaff, a field that also includes Two Item Limit, third in the Breeders' Cup Distaff last year, and the much-improved La Galerie.

Raging Fever packs 120 pounds as the highweight and Cat Cay carries 119 in the Distaff. In this round, Cat Cay, a winner of three races over Aqueduct's main track, including two at the Distaff's seven-furlong distance, appears to hold an advantage over Raging Fever. Raging Fever, a Grade 1 winner as a 2-year-old, is without a win in three starts at seven furlongs, and has yet to race over Aqueduct's main track.

Raging Fever, a fleet-footed daughter of Storm Cat, won the First Lady at Gulfstream by two lengths over Cat Cay on Jan. 18.

When they met again in the seven-furlong Shirley Jones on Feb. 15, Cat Cay got the better of Raging Fever, who was pressed by Tugger through a dizzying half-mile in 44.09 seconds. Credit belongs to Raging Fever, who finished a game second, only a neck behind the late-moving Cat Cay.

Raging Fever's trainer, Mark Hennig, said he is happy Tugger isn't in the Distaff.

"That was a suicidal pace, and it was a huge effort on Raging Fever's part to even be around at the wire," Hennig said. "It took [Cat Cay] every foot of the race to get the job done. Hopefully, we don't get into the same type of pace scenario."

John Velazquez will ride Raging Fever.

Shug McGaughey, Cat Cay's trainer, is hoping for a quick pace for his stone-cold closer.

Cat Cay's regular jockey, Pat Day, will ride.

McGaughey, seeking his fourth Distaff win, said Day and his mare are a good match.

"[Day] waits on her," McGaughey said.

The waters get deeper for La Galerie, who showed early speed in winning her last two starts in allowance company by open lengths on the inner track. La Galerie's trainer, John Kimmel, has nursed the mare through chronic quarter cracks, and it appears she is now at her best.

Two Item Limit, while training sharply for her 2002 debut, is probably a better horse going longer.

Prized Stamp, second to Xtra Heat in the Barbara Fritchie, and Shiny Band complete the field.

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