11/02/2004 1:00AM

Honorable Cat holds class edge

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Honorable Cat could vault past $200,000 in earnings when she races in a full field of runners in Thursday's featured ninth race at Churchill Downs.

A 5-year-old Honor Grades mare with $179,337 in earnings, she rates as the class of the $60,400 optional claiming race at a mile on turf.

Before running a close second against allowance company last month at Keeneland, Honorable Cat placed in the Pleasant Temper Stakes at Kentucky Downs and also in the Grade 3 Eatontown Handicap at Monmouth in July.

She ran quickly in her two most-recent races, earning Beyer Speed Figures of 91 and 90. None of her opponents have run faster in their last couple races.

A half-sister to $876,461 earner Tour of the Cat, she has also shown the versatility to handle dirt, a strength that could serve her well if Thursday's race is transferred to the main track because of rain in Louisville earlier in the week.

The one fault in her race record is an abundance of second-place finishes. Eight times in her 25-race career Honorable Cat has been the runner-up, compared to three victories. Jesus Castanon rides her for trainer Chuck Simon and the McKee Stables.

Prof. McGonagall, a winner of two of three races over the Churchill Downs course, heads the opposition, which also include such useful allowance mares as Rhythm in Shoes, Miss Wellspring, Final Discount and Dress to Impress.

Although unable to keep up with Honorable Cat when she raced at Keeneland on Oct. 20, Prof. McGonagall should be stronger in her second start following a layoff.

This spring she won an allowance by five lengths at Churchill Downs in the second start of her form cycle. Pat Day rides for trainer Allison Register.

Thursday's card also includes two other allowances, topped by the eighth race, a six-furlong sprint for three-other-than runners. Three of the seven starters are stakes winners. Ministers Wild Cat and Without a Doubt should vie for favoritism.

Ministers Wild Cat was briefly considered a Kentucky Derby hopeful in the spring of 2003 after winning the Golden State Mile for trainer Neil Drysdale. Transferred to trainer Bob Holthus this fall, he finished second at Keeneland on Oct. 17.

Without a Doubt won the Better Bee Stakes at Arlington earlier in the year. He has hit the board in 11 of 12 dirt races in 2003-2004.