05/30/2006 11:00PM

Catlaunch capable of four in a row

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Catlaunch figures to be an odds-on favorite over his six Ohio-bred rivals in the third running of the $50,000 Michael F. Rowland Memorial Handicap at six furlongs at Thistledown on Friday afternoon.

The 5-year-old Catlaunch comes into the race riding the crest of a three-race win streak in which his combined margin of victory is 17 lengths. Most recently, he won the six-furlong Edward Babst Memorial Handicap at Beulah Park on May 6. His other two wins came in middle-distance allowance races there.

Catlaunch, who was second, beaten a nose, in this race last year, is in the best form of his career. He is undefeated this year, and his three published works have all been bullets, including the most recent on May 22.

Catlaunch, the 124-pound highweight, has the speed to set the pace, and if he retains his form he will be very hard to catch. He is owned by Scioto Farm, trained by Ivan Vasquez, and will be ridden by Ivan R. Gonzalez.

The main opposition for Catlaunch should come from Cruzcat and Hank's Rib.

Cruzcat prepped for the race with a sharp win over a strong field of allowance sprinters in his last start on May 11. Third in this race last year, he carries 120 pounds and will be ridden by Weldon Cloninger Jr.

Hank's Rib won the inaugural running of this race in 2004 and was fourth last year. He also won his last start. His regular rider, Jeff Johnston, will come in from River Downs to ride.

Canterbury

The first 2-year old race of the meet was held last Friday, and Canterbury Park fans got a glimpse of a filly who may have a bright future.

First-time starter Donna's Dixie Lady was led to the saddling enclosure by her trainer, Troy Bethke, giving onlookers the impression he was leaving nothing to chance. Bred in Minnesota by her owner, James Peltier, Donna's Dixie Lady was sired by Dixie Union out of the A.P. Indy mare A.P. Indy's Lady, a pedigree that suggested that the well-balanced dark bay filly might have more than statebred conditions in her future.

Under leading rider Derek Bell, Donna's Dixie Lady wrested command from pacesetting Hill City Miss and pulled clear to prevail by 5 1/2 lengths in the five-furlong maiden race, stopping the timer in 59.81 seconds over a fast surface.

Bethke also saddled a Canterbury fan favorite in the seventh race on Sunday when J. P. Jet made his first start in nearly three years, finishing last of six in a $25,000 optional claiming sprint. Named horse of the meet in 2002 for his four wins that season, which included a dominating performance in the Minnesota Derby, J. P. Jet returned to the races after an unsuccessful attempt to stand at stud.

- David M. Miller

Evangeline

The passage of Memorial Day usually marks the unofficial start of summer, but at Evangeline Downs it also means the beginning of the 2-year-old season.

The meeting's highlight, the $150,000 D.S. "Shine" Young Futurity, is a month away on Louisiana Legends Night over the July Fourth weekend. The two divisions of the John Franks Memorial Stakes, worth $100,000 each, are slated for a month later, and then there is the traditional closing-day feature, the $100,000 Lafayette Stakes on Sept. 4.

Friday night's fourth race will mark the debut of seven 2-year-olds whose connections are hoping for bigger and better things.

The eighth and final member of the field, Runninwithstyle, hails from the powerful Steve Asmussen stable and has the benefit of a start, albeit a rather inauspicious one, at Lone Star Park in late April. Bet down to the 6-5 favorite's role that evening, the Louisiana-bred Runninwithstyle helped carve out the early pace before faltering down the lane after a bumping incident exiting the turn. Jockey Steve Bourque will hope to avoid a repeat of traffic problems while aboard the likely favorite Friday night.

Of the first-time starters in the field, several come in with nice pedigrees.

Hillbilly Rockstar is by the useful debut sire Lucky North. He is out of the Southern Halo mare Southern Dawn and brought $18,000 at the Evangeline Downs March sale, which - since he is also a Louisiana-bred - makes him eligible for the Shine, Franks, and Lafayette stakes. Those three races make up the Evangeline triple crown for 2-year-olds.

- Jeff Taylor

Fairmount

With 29 more wins than his nearest competitor through Monday's card, Ralph Martinez is well on his way to securing another Fairmount Park training title. The race for second place, however, is a little tighter, with four trainers within four wins of each other. Tom Trione Jr., currently second with 22 victories, enjoyed a nice evening last Friday, saddling three consecutive winners, including Settler ($47.20) in the featured eighth race, a second-level allowance.

* Denoun N Deverb was one of the leading statebred 3-year-old filly sprinters in Illinois in 2005 when she won 6 of 8 starts, including the $100,000 Powerless Handicap at Hawthorne on Illinois Festival of Champions Day last November. The road has been much tougher this season, and last Saturday Denoun N Deverb lost her third straight in the featured optional claimer to Dependability ($10.40).

Dependability, who struggled in conditioned claimers on the Kentucky and Florida circuits for trainers Bill Mott and Eddie Plesa Jr., was privately acquired by leading owner Louis O'Brien this spring and has since won three straight at Fairmount, including two high-end optional claimers.

* Last Hoot, who captured her debut by more than seven lengths on May 13, made it two in a row in the $14,560 Ombre Rose Handicap for 3-year-old fillies, the feature on the special Memorial Day program. Last Hoot ($6.20) drew off under Vicente Flores to win by 5 1/2 lengths.

- Vance Hanson

Finger Lakes

Johnie Bye Night not only prevented Top Shoter from winning the George Barker Handicap at Finger Lakes for the third straight year, he also erased his stablemate's name from the track's record book.

Johnie Bye Night's six-furlong time of 1:09.34 on Monday broke the stakes record of 1:09.49 set by Top Shoter a year ago. Top Shoter, after racing prominently for a half-mile, tired badly in the stretch to finish a distant third behind Johnie Bye Night and You Willgo Broke.

Owner-trainer Charlton Baker, who saddled three winners on Monday's card, said he suspected before the race that the 4-year-old Johnie Bye Night might have surpassed 7-year-old Top Shoter as the top male sprinter in his barn.

"I thought he might be better than Top Shoter," said Baker. "He's just getting his best stride."

* A sizzling five-furlong workout in 58.60 seconds five days earlier should have served as a tip-off that 4-year-old filly Mighty Annie R. was in top shape for her first start following a six-month layoff. Trainer Paul Barrow sent out Mighty Annie R. to a six-length victory in Sunday's seventh race. Ridden by David Osorio, she recorded the quickest time of the season for 5 1/2 furlongs by covering the distance in 1:04.26. It was her fifth consecutive victory over two seasons.

- Joe DeVivo

Great Lakes

Jockey Federico Mata, recuperating from a racing accident this past winter at Tampa Bay Downs, visited Great Lakes Downs recently while preparing for his comeback.

The crowd-pleasing Mata, who won the Great Lakes riding title in 2000 and finished second several times, broke a leg in two spots when his mount went through the inside rail at Tampa.

After his visit, Mata returned home to the Ocala, Fla., area, where he and his family have a farm. He has been galloping horses at Abracadabra Farm, near his home, and plans to return to the saddle here in about three weeks. When he was injured, Mata was in the top 10 in the Tampa standings.

* Trainer Steve Hellwege and jockey Ricky Knott lit up the tote board when Circus Vision rallied five wide from well back for a half-length victory in an allowance race Tuesday. The Michigan-bred Circus Vision paid $132 and keyed a $22,234.50 superfecta.

* Donna Foggiano had a training double Sunday with Atticus Guard ($2.80) in the third and Restrike ($13) two races later. Atticus Guard ran off from the field, winning by 10 1/2 lengths. Luis Martinez Sr. rode both winners.

- C.A .Shoemaker

Indiana Downs

Love This Trick ($61.60) rallied along the rail through the stretch and was up late to score a three-quarter-length upset victory over Mr Actor in Tuesday's $40,000 Governor's Stakes for Indiana-bred 3-year-olds at Indiana Downs.

Jockey Liz Morris guided Love This Trick to the victory in 1:31.60 for 7 1/2 furlongs over the turf course. Mr Actor, who took a clear lead past midstretch, settled for second, finishing three lengths clear of 2-5 favorite Father Art.

It was Love This Trick's second career stakes victory and his third win overall from seven starts. Ray Bowers trains Love This Trick for his owner-breeder, Linda Huneycutt.

- Dave Basler

Lincoln

Following 11 days of racing at the Lincoln State Fair, fans have not had to look very far to find the winning jockeys. With 98 races contested at the meet, just seven riders have multiple wins, accounting for 96 percent of the races won.

Renzo Diaz, newly arrived from Fairmount Park this past weekend, was the quickest to break through and post a win as he scored an $86 upset in Sunday's first race aboard Temptors Prospect. The other three riders with single wins - John Conheeney, Terry McGee, and Megan Ludlow - have returned similar prices.

Leading rider Yuri Yaranga scored his second four-win day of the year last Saturday and is hovering near inclusion in the top 20 list of leading riders in the country by wins this year. Yaranga has 95 victories and an 18 percent win rate. He leads R.D. Williams by a 22-18 margin for the meet, with Williams posting riding triples on both Sunday and Monday.

* This week's feature, the $15,000 Bluegrass Handicap for older fillies and mares, is expected to bring out Up 'n Blumin as she seeks her third stakes win of the year. Kelly Von Hemel will be the trainer of record for the Bluegrass with the 5-year-old Nebraska-bred Up 'n Blumin based in his barn at Prairie Meadows for owner Richard Galyen. Up 'n Blumin took the Al Swihart Stakes on closing day at Fonner Park and has been assigned top weight of 122 pounds for the Bluegrass.

- Bill Hodtwalker

Mountaineer

She's That Cat ran her local record at Mountaineer Race Track to 4 for 4 with a three-quarter-length victory in Tuesday night's $75,000 Ohio Valley Handicap.

A 4-year-old filly ridden by Dana Whitney for trainer Steve Flint, She's That Cat ($3.60) stalked pacesetter Shiny Dancer into the turn, edged clear to a short lead in upper stretch, and was hard-pressed to hold off a late rally from Fly Away Angel. Fast and Fluid was another length farther back in third.

The winning time for six furlongs was 1:11.13.

She's That Cat, claimed for $50,000 last November at Churchill Downs, is now 4 for 6 this season, including stakes victories in her last two starts.

- Joe DeVivo