12/17/2009 12:00AM

Catalano dangerous in both allowances

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STICKNEY, Ill. - Hawthorne managed to make not one, but two 2-year-old allowance races for Saturday's program. And Wayne Catalano may be tough in both of them.

For race 1, a two-turn, entry-level allowance, Catalano sends out the likely favorite, Officer McNeal. Race 7, a six-furlong entry-level allowance also open to $50,000 claimers, is both deeper and tougher, but the Catalano-trained Hart of a Cowboy has a decent chance here, as well.

Catalano wanted to start Hart of a Cowboy in the Dec. 12 Jim Edgar Futurity, but after sharply winning his career debut on Nov. 28 at Hawthorne, Hart of a Cowboy "was a little off his feed," Catalano said. Then, regular morning training was canceled for four days leading up to the Edgar, and Catalano decided discretion was the better part of valor.

"I wanted to be in there, believe me, but I had to let horsemanship come into effect," Catalano said.

Hart of a Cowboy worked a strong five furlongs in 1:02.60 on Tuesday, a drill that led Catalano to enter Saturday's race. Pressing the pace in his Illinois-bred maiden win, Hart of a Cowboy should be coming from behind quicker early fractions this time.

"I don't know why he was on the lead anyway," said Catalano. "He was supposed to come from off the pace."

Last-start maiden winner Cuvees Choice figures to show ample early foot, as should Little Nita, D'Clever Cat, and the quick filly Shake N Quake. Ransom Zip led through a more moderate half-mile split winning his career debut by three lengths on Nov. 6, and like Hart of a Cowboy, might be outrun early in this race.

Officer McNeal, one of seven horses entered in race 1, won his maiden when stretched out to a one-turn mile Aug. 2 at Arlington, and after a sprint prep Oct. 31 at Hawthorne, he closed strongly to finish second in a route allowance here Nov. 21.

"He should've won the other day," Catalano said. "He was 100 miles wide. It was brutal."

Even with a short field, Saturday's opener ought to have a decent early pace, with stretch-out sprinters drawn in posts 1 and 2. Officer McNeal's main competition should come from King Snake, who was crushed Nov. 28 in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, but who won a one-mile maiden race at Mountaineer in his previous start.