07/01/2004 11:00PM

Cat Genius road show a hit


ALTOONA, Iowa - Cat Genius and Coach Jimi Lee, two of the top sprinters in the Midwest, head a field of eight entered in Sunday's $125,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows.

The six-furlong Iowa Sprint wraps up the four-day Iowa Festival of Racing, and Sunday's 10-race program also brings the 49-day Thoroughbred meeting to a close.

Cat Genius, 4, comes off what may be the best performance of his 16-race career, when he finished second, beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Speightstown, in the Grade 2 True North Breeders' Cup Handicap at Belmont Park.

Cat Genius has been well-traveled this year for trainer Tom Amoss. After beginning 2004 with an off-the-board finish in the Cheval Stakes at Delta Downs, he has flourished. In his next start, Cat Genius was beaten a nose in the Taylor's Special at Fair Grounds. He returned at the same track on March 14 and scored a gate-to-wire half-length win in the $125,000 Pelleteri Breeders' Cup Handicap at six furlongs.

Following a two-month layoff, Amoss shipped Cat Genius to Mountaineer Racetrack in West Virginia and he once again led all of the way to win the $75,000 Waterford Park Handicap by 4 3/4 lengths.

Overall, Cat Genius sports a record of 7-2-1 from 16 starts, good for $347,816 in earnings. Tim Doocy, the meet's leading rider, picks up the mount on Cat Genius, the 119-pound starting highweight who will concede from two to nine pounds to his seven rivals.

Coach Jimi Lee looked on the verge of becoming one of the nation's best sprinters last winter following a second-place finish in which he was beaten just three-quarters of a length by Lion Tamer in the Grade 2 Richter Scale Breeders' Cup Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

Following a two-month layoff, Coach Jimi Lee shipped here and went off the 3-5 favorite in the Prairie Express. The 4-year-old Coach Jimi Lee held a three-length lead a furlong from home in the 5 1/2-furlong Express but was caught in the final stride and dropped a head decision to Pie's Lil Brother, who will also start in the Sprint.

Trainer Jim DiVito then tried Coach Jimi Lee in the one-mile Grade 3 Hanshin Handicap at Arlington, but Coach Jimi Lee found the distance a bit too long and finished fourth behind multiple stakes winner Crafty Shaw.

In his most recent start, Coach Jimi Lee was given a confidence boost by being dropped into allowance company at Arlington on June 11. He responded by rallying for a two-length win. Craig Perret will be in from Kentucky to ride Coach Jimi Lee, who has won 8 of his 19 starts and earned more than $394,000. Coach Jimi Lee will carry 117 pounds.

Apalachian Thunder was supplemented to the Sprint by trainer Bob Baffert. The 4-year-old Apalachian Thunder won an allowance race in May at Churchill following a 13-month layoff and returned at the same track to finish second, beaten three-quarters of a length against three-other-than company in a 6 1/2-furlong race June 6. Chris Emigh picks up the mount on Apalachian Thunder at 115 pounds.