11/18/2003 12:00AM

Catessa gets test against open field


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - With Delaware Park and The Meadowlands closed and Gulfstream Park still six weeks from opening, trainer Allen Iwinski can concentrate on New York for the time being.

Thus far, Iwinski has done quite well at Aqueduct, winning with four of his first eight starters and finishing in the money with two other runners. Thursday, Iwinski will saddle two more runners, including Catessa in a $47,000 entry-level allowance race for fillies and mares 3-and-up at six furlongs.

The allowance feature is one of five races on the nine-race card that drew a full field, pending, of course, the rain that was forecast for Wednesday and Thursday.

Catessa is a 3-year-old New Jersey-bred daughter of Sir Cat who has a 2-2-0 record from five starts. Catessa makes her first foray into open company after having faced strictly Jersey-breds.

Catessa has plenty of early speed and has the right rider for that style in Chuck Lopez, who was aboard for her last win Oct. 1 at The Meadowlands. It was one of a meet-leading 31 victories for Lopez, who has moved his tack here as he always does this time of year.

If the forecast is accurate, Catessa figures to race over a sloppy track, something she has never done. However, she is bred to handle the slop and her two most recent recorded workouts came over wet tracks at Monmouth Park.

Catessa may have to deal with early pressure from Evening on Rainier, Miss Nickels, and Something Silver, or show she can come from off the pace to win this race.

Feather Boa, from the Todd Pletcher-John Velazquez tandem, could also be part of that early pace battle. She warrants a look because both of her career victories have come over muddy tracks. However, Feather Boa has been more effective in claiming races than she has in allowance company.

Air Marshal has not been worse than third in her last four starts and figures to be a late factor under Javier Castellano.

If she draws in from the also-eligible list, Deacon Lake is a threat, since she is 3 for 3 over wet tracks. Another pace factor, Deacon Lake won an optional claimer in the slop at The Meadowlands with blinkers added for the first time. Eddie King rides for trainer Cynthia Reese.

There are three allowance races on the card, including an entry-level race at one mile for juvenile fillies. Western Doll overcame a slow start to win her maiden from well off the pace Oct. 30 and is a daughter of the potent wet-track sire Crafty Prospector.