04/29/2005 11:00PM

Kalahari Cat runs for hot stable

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STICKNEY, Ill. - If it is possible for a trainer to quietly win at a 40-percent clip, Wayne Catalano has done so during the National Jockey Club at Hawthorne meet. Catalano came here still piecing together his stable, but has wound up again the go-to guy for owner Frank Calabrese, and along the way won with 15 of the 36 horses he has sent out during the meet.

The 15 wins don't come close to leading trainer Tom Tomillo, who had 30 through Friday, but they show that Catalano has his house in order again, just in time for the Arlington meet that begins May 13.

Much sooner than that, in Monday's featured sixth race, Catalano will saddle Kalahari Cat, whom he trains for Turf Express Inc. and Darrell and Evelyn Yates, the owners who came up with Tamweel last season and Injustice this year. Kalahari Cat is not in that league, but she showed talent winning twice during the Fair Grounds meet, first in a dirt sprint, then in a turf route.

Problem is, Kalahari Cat's final start at Fair Grounds, in a second-level turf allowance similar to the Monday feature here, was a dud. Kalahari Cat had a slim lead at the stretch call, but quickly faded and wound up eighth, beaten six lengths as the favorite.

"She was kicking the gate really hard that day, but she did get out okay," Catalano said. "I don't know what happened."

But since coming to Hawthorne, Kalahari Cat has bounced back. Her works, three of them in the last month, are not especially fast, but that is not Catalano's style.

"She's doing super for this, I can tell you that," he said.

Fair Grounds grass horses more than hold their own at Hawthorne: In Saturday's second race, Pat the Winner, sixth and eighth in his final two starts in New Orleans, won an entry-level allowance race over this course.

Kalahari Cat has eight rivals, but seems like the most talented horse in the race, and with tactical speed she can make her own trip.

Those looking to play against the near-certain favorite might turn to Chic Dancer, a comeback horse from the barn of Christine Janks, who also has had a strong run this meet. Chic Dancer figures to get a trip similar to Kalahari Cat's, with Echo Spring - another layoff horse - and dirt-to-turf Warbond likely to set a quick pace.