05/30/2007 12:00AM

Cowtown Cat heads Ohio Derby

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It is entirely possible that a horse beaten in his last start by 52 lengths - a horse that in his last start earned a paltry Beyer Speed Figure of 33 - could be favored in the Ohio Derby on Saturday at Thistledown. Such is life in the Age of Pletcher.

The animal in question is Cowtown Cat, and his most recent performance - or lack thereof - came in the Kentucky Derby. Relaxed in the early portions of two prior stakes wins - first in the Gotham, then in the Illinois Derby - Cowtown Cat raced surprisingly close to a hot Derby pace, then faded badly, bringing up the rear of the 20-horse field.

But bettors figure to be quick to forgive, and Cowtown Cat - one of five Kentucky Derby starters for uber-trainer Todd Pletcher - could well be the chalk in Saturday's Grade 3, $300,000 race, by far the highest-class race of the season at the Cleveland-area track.

First, however, Thistledown officials have to figure out exactly who is running. Entry day for Saturday's races was supposed to be Wednesday, and all the other races on Saturday's card have been drawn. But Bill Couch, Thistledown's racing secretary, said the track's entry schedule had changed after Ohio Derby nomination forms were released, and on them it says entries for the Ohio Derby were due Thursday, May 31. Accordingly, Couch is leaving the entry box open until then, and the composition of the race remained somewhat in flux.

Besides Cowtown Cat, Couch had five other horses confirmed for the race: Danny Sez, Delightful Kiss, Moyer's Pond, Officer Rocket, and Starbase. Couch said five others still might enter, including True Competitor, Xchanger, Trust Your Luck, Teuflesberg, and Reptilian Smarts. In other words, the race could go with a compact field of six or a bulky field of 11.

Two or three prospective starters besides Cowtown Cat should attract the bulk of the attention. Lightly raced Moyer's Pond finished a good closing second to Slew's Tizzy last out in the Lone Star Derby, his stakes debut. And Officer Rocket was second in a pair of Oaklawn Park stakes before falling off form in the Arkansas Derby, his most recent race. The Wayne Lukas-trained Starbase most recently finished second in the Lexington Stakes, another race won by Slew's Tizzy.