11/19/2007 12:00AM

Colt needs good race to go south

EmailLOUISVILLE, Ky. - The flip side to many stakes races is that while the winners hog the headlines and then proceed to bigger and better things, the also-rans tend to fade into oblivion.

That was pretty much the case for a gray 3-year-old named Catman Running, who fell off the racing map after finishing a distant fifth in the Illinois Derby in early April. After he had captured the Battaglia Memorial in his previous start for his third straight victory, the colt's connections had notions of grandeur entering the Illinois Derby - but those hopes were dashed when Catman Running exited the Hawthorne race with an ankle chip.

"We did the surgery and gave him the time," said Eric Reed, who trains Catman Running at Keeneland for Joe Harris.

Duly regrouped, Catman Running returned to action six months later by finishing sixth in a third-level turf allowance at Keeneland, and because the colt "probably needed that race," according to Reed, there is optimism as the second start following the layoff approaches. That pivotal race will come Wednesday at Churchill Downs in a $55,000 turf allowance.

"This is an important race for the colt," said Reed. "If he runs like we think he will, we'll probably be sending him down to Gulfstream for the winter where he can keep running on the turf. If he doesn't run that well, then I'll probably just keep him here in Lexington."

Kent Desormeaux has the mount on Catman Running, who drew post 3 in the one-mile race. Reed said he will instruct Desormeaux to "try to get him to an outside lane because the horse won't run on the inside."

"His best races have come when he can get in the clear and make his run," Reed said. "Hopefully, Kent can get him a clear trip."

Although 14 horses were entered, only 10 will be permitted to start. Desormeaux also has a call on one of the also-eligibles, Drilling for Oil, who has been sidelined since winning the Gradeo3 Louisville Handicap in May.

Besides Catman Running, other contenders in the main body of the race include Jazz Quest, fourth in the Bryan Station last out; Electric Chant, second at this same allowance level in his latest; and two horses entered off lengthy layoffs, Roman Dynasty and Ruff and Ready.