11/11/2010 2:07PM

Catch a Thief stretching out

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Cllub
Baltimore Belle, with Vladimir Diaz up, wins the Maryland Million Oaks.

Catch a Thief, who has put up back-to-back 90-plus Beyer Speed Figures sprinting against open company in New York, stretches out to a mile when she faces Maryland-breds for the first time in the $50,000 Twixt at Laurel Park.

Based at Monmouth Park with trainer Tim Hills, Catch a Thief earned a career-best 98 Beyer winning a high-priced optional claimer at Belmont two starts ago and followed up by finishing second, beaten just a half-length, in the 6 1/2-furlong Catinca on Oct. 27.

Hills shows a 4-for-12 record with horses making their first start in a route while returning in less than 30 days over the past two seasons.

“She got into a little bit of trouble in her last start, but once clear she came running,” Hills said. “Her sire was strictly a distance horse and [Catch a Thief’s] style suggests a mile should be no problem. I’m not thrilled about running her back quickly and shipping, but she’s a tough filly and has a calm demeanor. It’s not a big concern.”

None of Catch a Thief's five rivals has posted a Beyer remotely close to her last two figures. If Catch a Thief fails to adapt to a longer distance, Baltimore Belle and Squabble are the most logical upset candidates

Baltimore Belle ran her winning streak to three races when she took the one-mile Maryland Million Oaks while making her stakes debut on Oct. 2.

“She came out of the Million very nice and we wanted to give her a little time to breathe,” trainer J.B. Secor said, "but she’s maturing so much at this time of the year and she worked so well the other day that we’re looking forward to trying her again at this distance on the dirt.”

Squabble won a first-level allowance last spring going 1 1/16 miles at Pimlico and was up close after a mile of the Go for Wand at Delaware in early June. When she returned from four months on the sidelines, Squabble got roughed up at the start and was never competitive in the Maryland Million Oaks, but she's eligible to improve second time back with a cleaner trip.