12/07/2006 12:00AM

Distance the biggest factor in Whitworth


CHICAGO - There were 11 horses entered Thursday in the Pat Whitworth Debutante, a 1 1/16-mile dirt race for Illinois-bred 2-year-old fillies. Only three of them have raced around two turns, and the question of who will stay the trip is central to the larger question of who will win the Whitworth.

What is not in question is that Magnetic Miss, one of the favorites and the winner last month of the Showtime Deb Stakes, will break from a terrible spot, post 11.

"Tell them to redraw the race," said the ever-colorful trainer Spanky Broussard.

Magnetic Miss has won 3 of her 4 career races and was pulled up the only time she failed to win. She's by Artax, a sprinter who has sired some horses that can stay a route of ground, but out of a speed-laden mare by the sire Deposit Express.

"The sire's got some horses that could go long, but she's not bred to on the mother's side," Broussard said. "But we shall see."

Perhaps equally dubious are the stretch-out prospects of Rich N Clever, who came within a neck of Magnetic Miss in the Showtime Deb. Rich N Clever won her career debut racing only 5 1/2 furlongs in the mud at Arlington, and her natural style seems much more slanted to speed than stamina.

The horses who already have raced around two turns are Hanna From Savannah, who won an Illinois-bred maiden race Oct. 27; Jermidy, who won a $50,000 maiden-claimer around two turns at Churchill on Nov. 15; and Buddy's Bomber, a maiden who on paper appears overmatched.

But there are horses less accomplished than Magnetic Miss and Rich N Clever who could turn out to be better at route racing than sprints. Included in that group is Frances Cat, who finished a close second in her career debut Oct. 20, then won an Illinois-bred maiden sprint by 2o1/2 lengths Nov. 18. Frances Cat is by Tactical Cat and out of a mare by Touch Gold, and trainer Tom Swearingen said he believes she can handle Saturday's longer distance.

"I kind of wanted to run her long from the get-go," Swearingen said. "We just kind of got some seasoning in her with those first couple sprint races."

Halo at Last definitely should benefit from extra distance and an additional turn. She won her career debut for trainer Brian Williamson, but was unable to keep up facing higher-class horses in her next two starts, checking in a closing sixth in the Showtime Deb.