06/06/2006 11:00PM

Inside post could hinder Catessa


The trainer Mark Shuman has started 107 horses so far this season, which by no means is small-time. But considering that Shuman won 521 races between the beginning of 2003 and the end of 2005, it seems fair to say that his station in the racing world has changed.

The difference? Gone is Mike Gill, who set Shuman up as the main trainer in a massive racing empire, wheeling and dealing through several tumultuous seasons. But Gill has scaled way back since his heyday, and Shuman now operates a public stable. With 21 wins from those 107 starters, Shuman has transitioned quite well to this new training life.

Monmouth is not Shuman's main base right now, but Monmouth is where you run New Jersey-breds, and Shuman has one of those for the eighth race on Friday, a second-level New Jersey-bred allowance carded at six furlongs on dirt. Shuman claimed Catessa for the Circle Z Stable out of loss in a $16,000 claimer on May 13 at Monmouth, and two weeks later Catessa finished a close second in a race at Friday's class level. Catessa, who faces seven rivals, comes back on fairly short rest, but she scored the third of four career wins over the Monmouth track coming back on only two weeks' rest.

had a much longer break between August 2004 and this past February. Claiming a horse with such a long layoff line is a gamble, but remember that Shuman worked for Gill, who was more than willing to take a chance on a claim. And this one might work out.

Catessa, however, might not have the easiest of trips as a natural pace-presser drawn on the inside. An inside-drawn horse with a pressing style can get boxed in or sawed off in a race with some pace in it, like Friday's, and Catessa will need some help from jockey Jose Lezcano.

Inside Catessa and on the fence is , who has a chance to lead all the way provided she breaks sharply. Pure Disco hasn't been out since March 24, and her last three running lines all look poor, but Pure Disco was racing against stakes horses at Aqueduct during her dry spell, and in her last race with New Jersey-breds, she won a $57,000 futurity at The Meadowlands. Pure Disco also ran in a statebred-restricted race when she made her career debut last summer at Monmouth. That day, she went all the way from post 12, and the oval is smaller from the rail.