01/09/2008 1:00AM

High hopes for Cassidy import


ARCADIA, Calif. - Mississippian caught trainer Jim Cassidy's eye when he won his debut in Ireland by two lengths in October. Cassidy's impression was strong enough that he advised a partnership that he trains for to pay approximately $250,000 for the now 4-year-old colt at a sale in England last fall.

Friday at Santa Anita, Mississippian makes his American debut in a $57,000 allowance race at 1 1/8 miles on turf, a race that Cassidy hopes will lead to stakes appearances this summer.

"I'm hoping he's a group [stakes] horse in six months," Cassidy said.

Previously trained by Aidan O'Brien, Mississippian won his debut going 1 1/4 miles on turf. He stalked the pace, took the lead with a furlong remaining, and drew off late.

"He did it like a well-seasoned horse," Cassidy said.

Mississippian has trained well for his U.S. debut, Cassidy said.

"His works have been aggressive, which I like," Cassidy said. "If he breaks well, I expect him to be off the pace. He won't be on the lead. He's a mile-and-a-quarter horse with his pedigree, but he's got some speed."

Mississippian drew post 4 in a field of 11. The race has a safety limit of nine starters since the temporary rails will be 24 feet from the permanent position.

There are four other horses in the field that won their last starts, but two of them - Lonely Highway and Liver - did so in claiming races and are on the also-eligible list. The other two won at Hollywood Park in December: James the Third in a starter allowance and Mind the Minister against maidens.

The race is a drop in class for Mostacolli Mort, who was well-beaten in his last three starts, all graded stakes. Trained by Julio Canani, Mostacolli Mort was sixth in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes and Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby and fifth in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby.

Canani wonders how Mostacolli Mort could have fared with better luck.

"He would have been second in the Oak Tree Derby, but he took up at the quarter pole," Canani said. "They walked in the Hollywood Derby. He was closing, but there was no pace."