03/03/2005 1:00AM

Cat Dreams gets second chance at stardom


Cat Dreams seemed to have all the elements for an outstanding career when he made his debut in the fall of 2003.

His bloodlines were ideal, by leading stallion Storm Cat out of the millionaire mare J J'sdream; he was in the capable hands of trainer Al Stall; and he had been bought for $475,000 by B. Wayne Hughes at the 2002 Keeneland September yearling sale.

But Cat Dreams's racing career turned out to be shorter than a commercial break. Cat Dreams made one start, winning a maiden race by eight lengths at Churchill Downs, and emerged with a bowed tendon.

As a result, Cat Dreams is standing his first season at stud this year at Pepper Oaks Farm in Santa Ynez, Calif.

Once again, all the elements seem to be in place for Cat Dreams to have an outstanding career - this time as a stallion.

Aside from the bloodlines, he has been moderately priced at $4,000 and will be well-supported by Hughes, who co-owns Cat Dreams with Bongo Racing Stable.

So far, the response has been positive, according to Pepper Oaks farm manager Jim Wilson II. More than 60 mares have been booked to Cat Dreams, and the number could grow by the end of the breeding season.

"He's getting really busy," Wilson said. "I think we'll get 80. We've already pronounced several mares in foal to him. For the quality of mares here in California, I think we're getting a really good book to him. He's getting solid mares that ran out $100,000."

Hughes said that he received interest from stallion farms in Kentucky, but that Cat Dreams represented an opportunity for him to stand a horse in California.

"We had an offer to go to Kentucky," Hughes said. "I've always wanted to have a stallion here and bring mares back in foal from Kentucky and breed them here. This was an opportunity to do that."

Hughes is supporting Cat Dreams by sending five of his mares from Kentucky to him. They are in foal to Kentucky stallions, and will be bred back to Cat Dreams. Both the foals by the Kentucky stallions and the foals sired by Cat Dreams will be registered as California-breds.

"Next year, I may send more," Hughes said.

Breeders will be attracted to the female side of Cat Dreams's family.

Cat Dreams's dam, J J'sdream, won 13 of 40 starts and $1,022,216. Owned by John Franks and trained through most of her career by Bobby Barnett, J J'sdream won stakes at 2, 3, 4, and 5, from 1995 to 1998.

She won four stakes and was third in the Grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga as a 3-year-old in 1996. At 4, she won stakes at Arlington Park, Fair Grounds, and Lone Star Park.

At 5, J J'sdream had her best season, winning the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel and the Grade 2 Genuine Risk Handicap at Belmont Park. She was tried against males in the 1998 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs but was never a factor and finished 11th.

With that kind of breeding behind Cat Dreams, Hughes was optimistic about his debut.

"In that particular race, when the gate opened, he stumbled," Hughes recalled earlier this week. "He grabbed a quarter, taking off one of his front feet. Then he bowed and he still won.

"It was a fluky thing. Trying to scramble to get himself together, he hurt himself. He was meant to be a good horse."

Cat Dreams is one of no less than 16 sons of Storm Cat standing in California. The group includes Marino Marini, who was second in the 2003 Malibu Stakes, and Tribal Rule, a brilliantly fast horse whose career was cut short by injury.

Cat Dreams is joined on the Pepper Oaks stallion roster by Malek, Pepper Trail, and Swiss Yodeler, the champion freshman sire in California in 2002.

Hughes is hoping that Cat Dreams can prove as a stallion what he never had an opportunity to do on the racetrack.

"His racing career was pretty short, but he was a very talented horse," Hughes said. "For me, he's a good stallion prospect in that he's very good-looking and very correct. He's been well received and hopefully he'll warrant it."