07/16/2003 11:00PM

Cruising Kat makes belated return to track

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The Nanaimo Stakes is the feature race of the day at Hastings Saturday, but the best race on the card is the eighth, a non-conditioned allowance sprint for older horses. Six of the eight horses entered are stakes winners, and included in the field is 2002 B.C. Derby winner, Cruising Kat, making his first start of the year.

Cruising Kat, owned by Daryl Snow and Jayson Spevakow and trained by Snow, was an improbable B.C. Derby winner. His best finish against stakes competition at Hastings had been a third-place showing in the City of Vancouver, and, after he put in a couple of lackluster performances going a middle distance, Snow opted to run him for a tag. The move did wonders for Cruising Kat's confidence, as he won a $50,000 optional race and came right back with a 3 1/2-length win over $35,000 claimers.

That's not the kind of stuff Grade 2 winners are usually made of, and that's why Cruising Kat paid more than $80 when he posted a three-quarter-length win in the province's most prestigious race.

According to Snow, a win Saturday by Cruising Kat is also improbable. "He's training beautifully," he said, "but his best races are at longer distances, and I'm not sure he can get up in time going 6 1/2 furlongs."

Cruising Kat is getting off to a late start this year for a couple of reasons. Snow believed he needed a lengthy rest to recover from a prolonged campaign that began with a win over allowance horses at Golden Gate Fields on Dec. 16, 2001, and ended with a fifth-place finish in the Premiers at Hastings last Oct. 20.

"He also had a small chip taken out of his knee," said Snow. "It wasn't a big deal, and he seems perfect now."

Snow looks at Saturday's race as a prep for the B.C. Cup Classic Aug. 4.

"I just need to get a race into him before the Classic," he said. "He's plenty fit, and I entered him in a mile-and-a-sixteenth allowance race the other day but it didn't fill. He worked a mile in 1:38 and change, so he's certainly ready to run."

Weighty issues in Nanaimo Stakes

Trainers Tom Longstaff and Harold Barroby came to completely different conclusions when critiquing the weights for the Nanaimo Stakes, which goes as the fourth race Saturday. Of course, Dancewithavixen, who is the dominant force in the 3-year-old filly division at Hastings, was the main topic of the discussion.

"I don't know how they can give a filly 123 pounds this time of the year," said Longstaff, referring to the weight given to Dancewithavixen, his star filly. "Last year's horse of the year and 3-year-old filly champion, Elana d'Amour, never carried more than 122 pounds, and my filly lost when she carried 122. It seems unfair that she would pick up three pounds off of her last win."

Said Barroby, "I don't see how we can beat Dancewithavixen with her carrying only 123 pounds. In the old days they would have given her a lot more. She's just galloped around there in her last couple, and it's pretty hard to imagine her getting beat on Saturday.

"I should be getting 14 or 15 pounds from her, but she's only carrying six more than Payton's Pride."

Barroby might have slightly overstated his case, because Payton's Pride, the filly he trains, has been assigned 114 pounds but will likely carry 117 with Pedro Alvarado in the irons. Alvarado also rode Class Choice when she finished second to Dancewithavixen, but according to Barroby, the jockey opted to ride Payton's Pride this time.

"She's won three in a row, and Pedro won on her last time," Barroby said. "This is the first time I've tried to stretch her out, and I think she'll handle the distance, but I doubt if she'll be able to handle Dancewithavixen."

As the trainer of Lord Nelson, the top older horse in the Province for the past few years, Dino Condilenios is well-versed on the topic of weights. He seemed amused by the conversation and also had an interest in it, since his Hold on Sugar is in the race.

"I think the weights were pretty fair for the Nanaimo," he said. "I own Hold on Sugar and I'm just taking a shot with her. I don't think 123 is too much for Dancewithavixen, but if it was Lord Nelson I'd probably have a different opinion."