02/17/2011 3:52PM

Catch a Thief, Hyperlink get first graded test in Sabin


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. − Catch a Thief and Hyperlink have two things in common entering Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Sabin at Gulfstream Park. Both have won their last two starts, and both will be getting a major class check in their graded stakes debuts.

Eight fillies and mares are entered in the one-mile Sabin, headed by Grade 2 winners Amen Hallelujah and Awesome Maria. Amazing, Joanie’s Catch, Musical Romance, and Sassy’s Image round out the field.

Catch a Thief has won 3 of her last 4 tries and 5 of 8 overall since beginning her career here last spring. In her 4-year-old debut last month, she set a pressured pace before edging away to a one-length victory over Sassy’s Image racing under high-priced claiming and allowance conditions going a mile.

“There are four or five legitimate horses in there, and the race is definitely a step up for her,” said Tim Hills, who trains Catch a Thief for owner Charles Dimino. “The last two times she’s run, she was down on the inside out of the chute at both Laurel and Gulfstream, and that’s really a do-or-die position. You have to get out of there and go and run all the way, and going a mile that’s tough to do. But she did it both times, and I’m really happy we drew outside this time.”

Pace will be a major factor in the Sabin with many of the main contenders having similar running styles.

“She showed early in her career she was capable of sitting and stalking, and with about four other horses in this field who figure to be right there all the way, this could wind up being a rider’s race,” Hills said. “But she has shown to be hard to pass in the stretch and has kind of turned into a win machine, so I’m really pretty excited about this race.”

Hyperlink opened her 4-year-old campaign here Jan. 16 with an easy victory in a second-level optional claimer going six furlongs, then stretched out to seven eighths to win an overnight stakes at Tampa Bay Downs 16 days later. Both starts came after Hyperlink was transferred to trainer Ken McPeek’s barn late last season.

Amen Hallelujah is expected to improve off her 2011 debut, a fifth-place finish in the six furlong Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint. The race was her first in nearly eight months. Amen Hallelujah, who worked a half-mile on the grass last weekend, won the Grade 2 Davona Dale out of the mile chute here a year ago.

Awesome Maria will make her first start since finishing second in the Grade 1 Gazelle on Nov. 27. She was also was second to Devil May Care in the Grade 1 Frizette at 2.

Amazing comes back just three weeks after setting a contested pace and dropping a heartbreaking half length decision to Evening Jewel at Santa Anita in the Sunshine Millions Distaff. Amazing finished third after forcing all the pace in the 2010 renewal of the Sabin.