03/10/2007 1:00AM

Cowtown Cat finds two turns to liking


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Cowtown Cat may have trouble cracking a top 10 list of trainer Todd Pletcher’s Kentucky Derby prospects. But in Saturday’s $200,000 Gotham Stakes for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct, the Pletcher-trained Cowtown Cat was second to none.

In his first start around two turns, Cowtown Cat split horses turning for home and wore down a stubborn Wafi City inside the sixteenth pole to win the Grade 3 Gotham by 2 1/2 lengths. Wafi City, who took over from pace-setting Wollaston Bay at the quarter pole, held second by a head over even-money favorite Summer Doldrums.

It was the first stakes win for Cowtown Cat, a son of Distorted Humor who sold for $1.5 million at last year’s Barretts March 2-year-olds in training sale.

Coming off a third-place finish in last month’s Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park, Cowtown Cat gave an indication to his connections that he might want to stretch out. Under Ramon Dominguez, Cowtown Cat relaxed beautifully down the backside, racing inside of a three-wide Summer Doldrums and behind Wollaston Bay, who ran a half-mile in 49.57 seconds.

Approaching the quarter pole, Cowtown Cat came off the rail and Dominguez guided him between Wollaston Bay and Summer Doldrums. Wafi City had opened up a two-length lead in midstretch, but could not hold off Cowtown Cat, who covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.75 and returned $6.70 as the second choice.

“When it was time to split horses he was very relaxed,” Dominguez said. “At that point I didn’t know if I had a lot of horse or I didn’t have much horse. I just put him on the bit, and he just split horses beautifully and galloped out real strong.”

Rick Violette, the trainer of Summer Doldrums, expected that his horse would regress off his swiftly run victory in the Whirlaway last month. Still, Violette was not happy with his off-the-pace trip, considering the slow early fractions.

“I was afraid what could happen off that big effort,” Violette said. “Hopefully that means we’re supposed to go forward when we get to the Wood. It wasn’t his ‘A’ race and I think we knew that going in it wasn’t going to be his ‘A’ race, but I thought we could still get it done.”

o Attila’s Storm ($2.90), with Dominguez up, took over from the pace-setting Kelp midway around the far turn, opened up a three-length lead in midstretch, and held off Wild Jam to win the Grade 3, $105,100 Toboggan Handicap by 1 1/4 lengths. It was another 2 1/2 lengths back to Pavo in third.

It was the first graded stakes victory for Attila’s Storm, a son of Forest Wildcat owned by Barry Schwartz, Double S Stable and Wachtel Stable and trained by Rick Schosberg. Attila’s Storm ran six furlongs in 1:10.02.