04/06/2006 11:00PM

'Cat' lands in right spot after all

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STICKNEY, Ill. - Rochester Cat would have faced an uphill battle Saturday, jumping from an Illinois-bred maiden race into the $100,000 Lost Code Stakes. In fact, his entry in the Lost Code was merely trainer Andy Hansen covering all the bases. Hansen always intended to start Rochester Cat on Sunday in the colts and geldings division of the Illinois Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders' Foundation Sales Graduate Stakes, and that is where Rochester Cat, among the most impressive maiden winners at this National Jockey Club meet, will show up.

"If this race didn't go, I didn't want to sit on him another two weeks," Hansen explained. "If it hadn't have gone, I'd have been in trouble, because he's jumping out of his skin already right now."

Rochester Cat's race is accompanied on Sunday's nine-race card by a division of the same race for fillies, as well as an open second-level sprint allowance that drew a field of 10.

might have been hard-pressed to hit the board in the Lost Code, though he does appear to have ample ability, but in the Sunday sales stakes he figures to go off at odds of something like 1-5.

Rochester Cat showed only flashes in three starts last year, but with blinkers off and a newfound maturity, Rochester Cat came out with guns blazing March 4. Bet down to favoritism, he won a statebred-restricted maiden race by more than 13 lengths, and his six-furlong time of 1:10.60 over a dull racetrack was good for a 94 Beyer Speed Figure.

While Sunday's race is a prep for an Illinois-bred stakes two weeks hence, Rochester Cat should have little trouble handling seven apparently overmatched rivals.

"We want to take baby steps with him right now," Hansen said. "He's training super. I wanted to give him the extra time to avoid the bounce."

The filly division of the sales stakes, which goes as race 7, seems totally up for grabs, while the second-level allowance, race 8, also looks tough to figure.

comes off a second-place finish at the class level, but is far from a lock to repeat that effort, and is only one of several contenders in this six-furlong race. My Calabrese came back from a 2 1/2-year layoff to finish third behind Quietly Quick in his last start, and could move forward enough to win if he can work out a trip from the rail. Frenchburg comes out of a $25,000 claimer, but is in good enough form to factor on what amounts to only a minor class hike.