05/26/2011 11:51AM

Emerald feature a real test for Cat On Base


AUBURN, Wash. – The most consistent horse at Emerald Downs not named Noosa Beach, Cat On Base will try to keep rolling Saturday in the feature race, a 6 1/2-furlong allowance for older horses with a $50,000 optional claiming price. First post is 2 p.m. Pacific, and the feature is race 8 on a nine-race card.

Another in the growing legion of top-shelf runners sired by Harbor the Gold, Cat On Base began his racing career at 3 last April. After four strong but non-winning efforts, he won a maiden race in start No. 5, and then transitioned smoothly into higher-priced claiming races. Trainer Howard Belvoir gave him the winter off and brought him back stronger than ever for his 2011 debut on April 23. A front-running victor in a first-level allowance, Cat On Base ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.67 and won by 2 1/4 lengths.

Bottom line: Cat On Base has never run a bad race. Ten starts into his career, he’s never finished worse than third, and his most recent effort may have been his best yet. But he’ll be stepping into a hornet’s nest Saturday, facing five rivals who’ve combined to win 21 of 67 starts, with 11 stakes victories, and a tidy $613,235 in purses.

Cat On Base likes to get involved with the pacesetters, and the outside post position could help vault him into contention. If so, he’s liable to have his hands full with like-minded speed horses Hollywood Harbor and Boundtogetbusy. Hollywood Harbor was Emerald’s champion 2-year-old in 2009, when he won three consecutive stakes races. Boundtogetbusy ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.20 in his final start at Emerald last summer. A fast pace is guaranteed.

If the pace is too hot, late-runners Margo’s Gift and Davos will be viable candidates to take the winner’s share of the $20,000 purse. Margo’s Gift, 6, is the most experienced horse in the race, with 27 starts and a career-defining victory in the $250,000 Favorite Trick Stakes on the 2007 Breeders’ Cup undercard at Monmouth Park. Davos recorded a 100 Beyer Speed Figure in his best race, when he finished a close second in a second-level allowance at Santa Anita in March 2009.

Rounding out the field is Seven Torrents, a three-time stakes winner at Portland Meadows who finished behind Hollywood Harbor and Davos in his season debut May 1. Like the other five horses in the race, Seven Torrents is a candidate to improve in his second start following a long layoff.