06/30/2011 1:42PM

Hollywood Park: Courageous Cat back on short rest for Shoemaker Mile

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Tom Keyser
Courageous Cat is among the favorites for Saturday's Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Courageous Cat makes his second career start in Southern California in Saturday’s $300,000 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park. A performance anything near his first start on this circuit, back in fall 2009, will make the multiple stakes winner nearly impossible to beat.

BREEDERS' CUP CHALLENGE: Race schedule and past winners »

Courageous Cat finished second to Goldikova in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita in November 2009, leading in the final furlong before finishing a half-length behind arguably the greatest female turf miler in history.

The competition in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile -- a Win and You're In race for the Breeders' Cup Mile -- though worthy of a race at that level, is hardly as fearsome. The biggest concern for trainer Bill Mott is Courageous Cat’s schedule. The 5-year-old horse made his 2011 debut with a sharp win in the Grade 3 Poker Stakes at Belmont Park on June 10.

“We’re coming back on short rest, and we all know the danger of that if you run back too quickly,” Mott said. “He seems to have bounced out of the race well. He breezed nicely this past weekend. He seems to be feeling good for this race.”

Mott trains Courageous Cat for breeders Marty and Pam Wygod, California residents. Since the BC Mile, Courageous Cat has won 2 of 4 starts. A win in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park in February 2010 was followed a month later by a ninth in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free in Dubai. Courageous Cat had one additional start last year, finishing third in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Churchill Downs last October.

Courageous Cat is as good now as he was in fall 2009, Mott says.

“I don’t think he’s lost any of that,” Mott said. “The big risk is coming back in three weeks. We’d prefer to have another week or two, sure, but this is how it came up.”

The race has added value through the Breeders’ Cup challenge program, offering a fees-paid berth to the winner for the BC Mile at Churchill Downs, if the horse is nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program.

Of the seven runners, there are six stakes winners in the Shoemaker, including Ashtar, Blue Chagall, Caracortado, Liberian Freighter, and Victor’s Cry. Smokey Lonesome has placed in two stakes.

Victor’s Cry won the 2010 Shoemaker. This year’s race will be his first start since a fifth in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free on March 26.

Caracortado won the Sunshine Millions Turf at Santa Anita in January, but has lost his last three starts, including a second by a head in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf at Santa Anita in March and a sixth, by three-quarters of a length, in the Grade 3 Alysheba Stakes on the main track at Churchill Downs on May 6.

Caracortado is a closer and should have a pace to pursue with Liberian Freighter, the winner of three graded stakes in the last year, having drawn the outside in a field of seven and likely to set the pace. Trainer Mike Machowsky thinks the eight-week break between the Alysheba and Shoemaker Mile may leave Caracortado closer to the front under jockey Joe Talamo than in past starts.

“His last two works have been super,” Machowsky said. “He’s kind of a strange horse. You can’t really put him into the race too much. I think him being a fresh horse will be a big difference. He could be dragging Joe a little bit.”