02/04/2008 12:00AM

Good profits await those who recognize her strengths


Slightly more than a year after unveiling eventual 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin in a maiden race - a race he won by 12 3/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park before majority interest was sold and the colt transferred to trainer Steve Asmussen - trainer Helen Pitts is back in Florida doing what she does best, developing horses into top performers.

Chances are likely there is no Curlin in the barn - horses like that come by once in a lifetime, and then only for the rare few trainers - but once again, Pitts has at least one good 3-year-old in her barn.

Leading the way is Face the Cat, a two-time winner at the Gulfstream Park meeting. After winning a maiden race with an eighth-to-first rally Jan. 4 in his second start, he won a mile allowance race by four on Jan. 30, posting a flashy 93 Beyer Speed Figure.

A son of Tale of the Cat and a half-brother to multiple stakes winner Bear Character, he seems ready for bigger tests ahead.

Handicappers who know Pitts's training statistics will be following closely. Since beginning to train on her own in 2005 - when her former boss, Ken McPeek, took a hiatus from training to focus on being a bloodstock agent - Pitts has posted some excellent statistics, not only with 3-year-olds but also in other categories.

She shows promising returns with longshots, horses making their second starts off a layoff, going from turf to dirt, and switching between turf and synthetic surfaces. Additionally, she has won at a high percentage with horses seeking repeat victories, those dropping from maiden special weight races into maiden claimers, and with horses racing over wet dirt tracks and synthetic surfaces.

Through Feb. 3, Pitts was 3 for 5 since the start of the year with starters over Turfway's synthetic Polytrack surface. That record is in addition to her 5-for-26 mark at Gulfstream, a mark that places her among the meet's 10 leading trainers.

The fact that Pitts, 33, is having such success is no surprise given her background. She grew up in the horse business on a farm near Baltimore.

She also received plenty of racetrack experience, galloping horses for five years for trainer Francis Campitelli and later working for McPeek and becoming his assistant.

Success came long before Curlin. Just months after beginning her training career in the summer of 2005, she won stakes with Durban Thunder and Sweet Talker, who would become her first Grade 1 winner. Einstein, who remains in training, later became a Grade 1 winner for her.

Besides Face the Cat and Einstein, there is plenty of other talent in the barn right now, to varying degrees. Fantasyafield, coming off a runner-up finish, appears poised to pick up a maiden victory in the near future, as does Clandestine Fury, who ran third in a quick race won by Sleuse at Gulfstream on Feb. 1.

Sargeant Silver, like Face the Cat, is a two-time winner at the Gulfstream meeting, having won a maiden $50,000 race by 5 1/2 lengths Jan. 11 and following that with a 3 3/4-length triumph vs. $62,500 stock.

And there is Murch, a graded-placed Mr. Greeley ridgling who ran sixth in a third-level allowance Jan. 31 when making his seasonal bow.

None of these horses can replace the transfer of a horse like Curlin into another stable, but based on her current stock of horses and statistical history, Pitts seems poised to enjoy a successful 2008, following a year in which her stable went 34 for 239, amassing more than $1.44 million in earnings.