08/24/2003 11:00PM

Comeback for a pair of prospects

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Hell Cat and Listen Indy were Triple Crown hopefuls when they were taken out of training last winter with injuries. Wednesday at Del Mar, they resume their careers in a $54,000 allowance race, and major stakes could be next.

Run over 6 1/2 furlongs, the allowance race has drawn nine entrants, several of whom are 3-year-olds.

Listen Indy has not started since finishing fourth in an allowance race in January at Santa Anita. Last fall, he finished third in the Grade 2 Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita and seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Arlington Park.

"I thought he'd be a real nice horse," trainer Richard Mandella said.

The sentiment is still there, but Mandella is worried that the sprint distance of Wednesday's race may not work for Listen Indy, an A.P. Indy colt.

"It will be too short, but I want to get him in a race and get him doing something again," Mandella said.

Hell Cat was stakes placed twice at 2 - finishing second in the Beau Brummel Stakes at Fairplex Park and third in the Hollywood Prevue Stakes at Hollywood Park. He was sixth in the Santa Catalina Stakes last January and later underwent surgery to have bone chips removed from an ankle and knee, trainer Jack Carava said.

The surgery spelled the end of Hell Cat's chance for the spring classics.

Hell Cat's only victory came against maidens here in August 2002, when he closed from last in a field of six. Carava says that Hell Cat is ready for his comeback.

"He's fit enough," he said. "I think if there is enough speed, he should be fine."

Hell Cat and Listen Indy face several horses with solid recent form.

American Fury was a fast-closing second in an allowance race over 6 1/2 furlongs on Aug. 9.

Smart Again was a sharp maiden winner at Hollywood Park on May 25 but has been third and fourth in subsequent allowance races. Trained by Bob Baffert, Smart Again will likely be part of the pace.

Montbretia finished behind Smart Again on May 25, and won a maiden race over 6 1/2 furlongs on July 27. Trained by Eoin Harty, Montbretia is making his first start against winners.