03/30/2006 1:00AM

Catonight has speed and rail

Email

Most of the attention on 3-year-olds this time of year is focused on route racing and the first Saturday in May. So it is refreshing to get a look at a talented group of 3-year-old sprinters in Saturday night's $75,000 Inaugural Stakes at Evangeline Downs. The six-furlong feature race is the young meeting's first of 17 stakes, each worth at least $75,000.

is the 7-5 morning-line favorite in the Inaugural off a steady 2006 campaign in which he already has won the Sugar Bowl Stakes at the Fair Grounds meeting at Louisiana Downs and run well at Oaklawn Park. A speedy Washington-bred, Catonight also drew the best of all the early speed runners, breaking from post 1. He is trained by Steve Asmussen and will be ridden by Tracy Hebert.

Five-time stakes winner , who had a five-race win streak come to an end when he was defeated by Kentucky Derby candidate Lawyer Ron in the $100,000 Diamond Jo Stakes here on New Year's Eve, will look to right the ship following a fifth-place performance in the Mountain Valley Stakes at Oaklawn.

Premier Dance's streak comprised all stakes and included the Middleground at Lone Star, the Minstrel at Louisiana Downs, and the Governors at Zia Park - all at Saturday's six-furlong distance. Marlon St. Julien will ride Premier Dance, who is trained by Cody Autrey.

, a freakishly fast Crafty Prospector colt trained by Lori Hendrickson, will be making his stakes debut in the Inaugural off a 10-length win in allowance company on March 10. Chief What It Is's clocking of 1:09.60 for six furlongs resulted in a 96 Beyer Speed Figure. Guy Smith will ride.

Others in the field include Seabreeze Blvd., trained by Bubba Cascio and coming off an easy maiden scorem, and L. S. Fast Jack, a recent allowance race winner against Louisiana-breds whose stalk-and-pounce running style should serve him well in Saturday's speed-laden field.

Direct Splash, a two-time winner, completes the field.