05/30/2003 12:00AM

Front-runner Little Malvern and closer Katdogawn a tough entry


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Katdogawn and Little Malvern give trainer Jim Cassidy a formidable entry in Sunday's $75,000 Manhattan Beach Stakes at Hollywood Park.

The pair is ideally suited as an entry for the turf sprint for 3-year-old fillies over 5 1/2 furlongs. Little Malvern is expected to show speed, while Katdogawn, a closer, has won over the course and at the distance at this meeting. Katdogawn was stakes placed on turf earlier in the year at Santa Anita.

The entry will be favored in the Manhattan Beach, which drew 10 entrants.

Katdogawn is probably the stronger half of the entry, but Cassidy is optimistic that Little Malvern will run well.

She was fifth in the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes over a mile on turf on May 17 in her United States debut, but had traffic trouble. Third early, Little Malvern was stuck in traffic on the final turn under jockey Mike Smith and finished 5 1/2 lengths behind the winner, Makeup Artist.

"He never got a chance to let her run," Cassidy said. "If she would have gotten clear sailing, it would have been a different result. But when she got loose, she didn't have much kick. I'll try her sprinting and see what happens."

In England, Little Malvern had two wins in eight starts, with the victories coming in minor races.

Smith had his choice of riding Katdogawn or Little Malvern, and chose Katdogawn. Gary Stevens rides Little Malvern, and has already ridden the filly in a workout, Cassidy said.

Smith was aboard Katdogawn for the allowance race victory on May 8, rallying from the back in a six-horse field to win by a length. It was the ideal prep for the Manhattan Beach Stakes.

Because of the large field for Sunday's race, Cassidy expects Smith to have Katdogawn in the race early.

"Last time, Mike didn't keep her back too long," Cassidy said. "He started running with her at the three-eighths pole. He wasn't about to get her trapped. You can ask her to go at any time."

As much as Cassidy's pair complement each other, they face several opponents capable of winning. Honest Answer will draw support at the windows even though she starts in post 10. She is making her turf debut, following a second in the Grade 3 Railbird Stakes on May 4.

Himalayan was fourth in the Railbird and third in the La Habra two races earlier. Vanilla Sky will be running late. She won a one-mile allowance race on turf on April 27.