06/17/2004 11:00PM

Cat's Cat edge on experience

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SHAKOPEE, Minn. - Nine fillies and mares face the toughest assignment of their careers in the $100,000 Lady Canterbury Breeders' Cup Stakes at Canterbury Park on Sunday.

Cat's Cat is the lone entrant to possess the stakes experience that matches the profile of a Lady Canterbury winner. Trained by Michael Stidham, Cat's Cat captured the Hatoof Stakes at Arlington last August. Following a five-month layoff, Cat's Cat made her 2004 debut at Fair Grounds, then returned to make two solid, pace-pressing efforts in the Irving Distaff and Grade 3 WinStar Distaff at Lone Star Park, finishing second and fifth, respectively. Leading rider Derek Bell will be aboard Cat's Cat, whose front-running style might be a problem in the one-mile turf race.

The accomplished Iowa-bred mare Sound of Gold should be the runner who puts Cat's Cat to the test early. The pace-pressing mare has won 7 of 12 starts on the turf and comes into the Lady Canterbury off a three-race win streak at Sam Houston Race Park. Among Sound of Gold's wins are the Willowbrook and Jersey Lily stakes. Brad Heidelberg will saddle Sound of Gold for Paul Pearson, who trains the 6-year-old mare for the River Ridge Ranch. Perry Compton has the call.

Kentucky shipper Border Blues won a first-level allowance on the main track at Churchill Downs in her most recent outing. Trained by Lynn Whiting, Border Blues has only one turf victory but has several efforts in allowance company that suggest she could make an impact in the Lady Canterbury. Seth Martinez will ride.

Owner Brett Rice and trainer Kitty Cheeks teamed up for a win in the Brooks Fields last week and they are running Afleet Angel in the Lady Canterbury. A daughter of Northern Afleet, Afleet Angel has yet to try the Canterbury turf course but won a second-level allowance on the Tampa turf in January, suggesting the Lady Canterbury is a logical assignment for her. Paul Nolan is named to ride.

Trainer Judy Hicklin has Willa Cather in the Lady Canterbury off an impressive allowance win over the main track two weeks ago. Alex Birzer will ride Willa Cather, whose style suggests she should benefit most if there are fast early fractions.

Be My Friend has pulled several upsets over the Canterbury turf course in seasons past, including a victory in the 2002 Minneapolis Stakes. Sherri Shepherd trains Be My Friend for owner-breeder Herb Riecken, and Shepherd's son Justin Shepherd will ride.