01/30/2007 12:00AM

Deep Dish Wildcat to gun for early lead

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - In the case of Thursday's eighth race at Aqueduct, a six-furlong optional claimer with a $45,000 purse, the probable pace scenario seems pretty straightforward: Deep Dish Wildcat will try for the early lead, and her rivals will try to catch her.

Deep Dish Wildcat drew the inside post in a field of six 3-year-old fillies. The New Farm homebred makes her first start in New York following a third-place finish in the $74,000 Marshua Stakes at Laurel first time out this year.

"The rail's been pretty good all meet, and she's got speed," said trainer Ben Perkins Jr. "She tries really hard; she's not big, but she's really gritty."

The Marshua marked the first time in six career starts that Deep Dish Wildcat did not have the lead after the opening half-mile. She was a front-running maiden winner at Monmouth Park in July, and returned from a three-month layoff to win her first-level allowance condition at Laurel with similar tactics.

Deep Dish Wildcat has finished out of the money only once, when fifth at 4-5 last August at Delaware Park.

"She got off bad, rushed up, and flattened out," said Perkins.

Deep Dish Wildcat is one of four entered for the $100,000 claiming price, along with For a Prayer, Jessica Is Back, and Are We Dreamin. Those not entered for a claiming price are Street Sass and Thunder Sword.

Jessica Is Back and For a Prayer each made her only start of the winter meet in a $60,000 claiming sprint on Dec. 14. Jessica Is Back was making her first start in New York after shipping in from Calder, and finished second, beaten a half-length despite racing wide. For a Prayer, who was making her first start on Lasix, chased the early pace and finished fourth as the favorite.

Are We Dreamin finished third behind For a Prayer in a maiden race at Belmont, and was third again behind Thunder Sword last month when Thunder Sword won his debut at 54-1. Last time out, however, Are We Dreamin improved a bit, and graduated as much the best for leading trainer Gary Contessa.

Street Sass comes off a top-figure win in a New York-bred allowance, which was her second start in blinkers. Trained by George Weaver, she is a half-sister to Fourth and Six, a durable 14-time winner who was stakes-placed at 2 and won the Evan Shipman as a 7-year-old.