02/04/2005 12:00AM

Catienus started fast and is still going

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New York stallion Catienus broke on top and never looked back.

His very first runner, Lisa's Cat, won a maiden special weight at Keeneland on April 8 in her career debut.

She was the first of 19 winners in 2004 for Catienus, who led all North American sires in winners last year as a first-crop sire.

With four of his offspring winning last weekend, Catienus now has 23 winners from that crop of 42 foals.

Catienus, an 11-year-old son of Storm Cat owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, stands at Highcliff Farm in Delanson, N.Y., for a fee of $6,500.

Highcliff Farm is operated by Suzie O'Cain and Dr. Lynwood O'Cain, the resident veterinarian, and is located approximately 40 miles southwest of Saratoga Race Course in Schenectady County.

The Ramseys earned two Eclipse Awards for 2004, one for their champion male turf horse, Kitten's Joy, and one as outstanding owner.

The stakes-winning Catienus, trained by Richard Schosberg, was campaigned by the Ramseys during his racing days and won 5 of his 22 starts. During the 1999 racing season he was second in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap to Behrens and third in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap to Victory Gallop and Behrens.

After his racing career, he brought an attractive pedigree to stud.

His dam, the Mr. Prospector mare Diamond City, placed in the Grade 3 Arlington Matron and is a granddaughter of Cathy Honey, a classy runner who captured the Acorn Stakes and placed in the next two events of the old New York Racing Association filly triple crown, the Mother Goose Stakes and Coaching Club American Oaks.

The Storm Cat-Mr. Prospector cross has produced 10 stakes winners, including Finder's Fee, winner of the Grade 1 Acorn and Grade 1 Matron, and a French champion juvenile filly, Denebola, winner of the Group 1 Prix Marcel Broussac.

Catienus began his stud career at Ramsey Farm in Kentucky.

"I sent him to New York because of the economics of the breeding program," said Ramsey. "And I love New York racing. Saratoga is my very favorite track in the world. It is the only track I go to for the entire meeting."

Ramsey reviewed several farms before selecting Highcliff, and was impressed with the setup at the facility.

"I really thought it was good to have Dr. O'Cain at the farm, and he is a good businessman," said Ramsey. "It is a nice farm and well situated for the horses. The people at Highcliff Farm are terrific, and it's close to Saratoga, so I could visit my stallion during the racing season."

It was during the Saratoga racing season of 2003 that Ramsey was considering a New York farm for Catienus.

"My hat was thrown into the ring along with some others," said Suzie O'Cain. "Mr. Ramsey is result-driven and is not going to give up on this horse. He has taken that stallion and done everything to promote him. You're not going to be standing there alone if you breed to Catienus. You are getting a lot of residual for that $6,500."

Another example of Ramsey's support is his willingness to pay the vanning fees for mares coming from the East or Midwest for the 2005 breeding season.

Ramsey announced the selection of Highcliff Farm on the television show "AM Saratoga," which airs during the Saratoga racing season on the New York City OTB network.

With Schosberg at his side, Ramsey discussed the move with O'Cain, who is the host of a segment of the show dealing with women in racing.

Ramsey sent 44 mares to Highcliff Farm for the 2004 breeding season, and Catienus got 42 of them in foal.

"Mr. Ramsey will not nickel-and-dime his horse," said O'Cain. "He reviewed the pedigrees of the others who wished to breed to his horse, and he was very happy with the support he received from New York breeders."

Statebred champion voting under way

The nominees for New York-bred divisional champions of 2004 have been released by New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc. Ballots have been sent to the voters and are due back to the breeders organization by Feb. 18. The annual awards presentation is scheduled for April 11 at the Desmond Hotel in Albany.

There are eight graded stakes winners, plus an additional 13 open stakes winners, among the nominees.

Grade 1 winners Funny Cide and Friends Lake are prominent, along with Grade 2 winners Read the Footnotes and Well Fancied.