08/22/2003 12:00AM

Katdogawn continues climb to Grade 1 ranks


DEL MAR, Calif. - Over the last six months, Katdogawn has earned a reputation as an overachiever.

Bought for only $16,000 last year in England, Katdogawn has won 3 of 7 starts and $216,580 this year, including the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap on Aug. 2.

The experience will help when she makes her Grade 1 debut in Sunday's $300,000 Del Mar Oaks.

Run at 1 1/8 miles on turf, the Oaks has drawn eight 3-year-old fillies, including Atlantic Ocean, a multiple stakes winner; Cassis, an English import who could be favored; and Personal Legend, who is trained by Bobby Frankel.

Katdogawn will be coupled with Star Vega. Both fillies are owned by the partnership of John Cuchna, Jim Ford, and Deron Pearson.

The pair give trainer Jim Cassidy an ideal team. Star Vega is proven at 1 1/8 miles, having won the Providencia Stakes at Santa Anita in April. Katdogawn won the one-mile San Clemente by two lengths after stalking the pace to early stretch.

"What's she done wrong?" Cassidy said of Katdogawn. "That was quite a huge run in her last race, but I'm hoping that didn't knock her socks off. She will need to be at her best to win this race."

Cassis poses the biggest threat to the Cassidy entry. Cassis, who is owned by Sanford Robertson of San Francisco, won the Group 3 Musidora Stakes at 1 5/16 miles in York, England, in May, but has lost her last three starts, all in Group 1 company.

She finished fifth in the French Oaks, fourth in the Coronation Stakes at Ascot in June, and sixth in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, England, on Aug. 2. In that race, she was in trouble a quarter-mile from the finish and finished 12 lengths behind the highly regarded winner, Russian Rhythm.

"Last time she would have been fourth if she hadn't gotten murdered in the race," trainer Jeremy Noseda said on Friday in a phone interview.

Cassis has been based at Del Mar with trainer Kathy Walsh since early August and is expected to stay with the stable after the race. Sunday, she will start for Noseda, who trained in California from 1996-98.

"She's been campaigned in the best company throughout her career," Noseda said. "I think she stacks up there and her form is better than anything she is taking on."

While Cassis will be a short price, there will be support for the Cassidy-trained fillies and Atlantic Ocean and Dessert, who will be coupled as an entry owned by The Thoroughbred Corp.

Atlantic Ocean finished second in the San Clemente, leading in mid-stretch but offering little resistance to Katdogawn in the final furlong.

Dessert and Solar Echo are making their first starts in stakes company after scoring impressive wins in allowance races on Aug. 4. Both will likely run near the pace.

Personal Legend has yet to win a stakes race but ran well in her last two starts, finishing second in the Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs and fifth in the American Oaks at Hollywood Park on July 5.

Star Vega finished ninth in the American Oaks and fourth in the San Clemente.

Cassidy is ready to try her again at 1 1/8 miles, knowing she is part of a talented and overachieving entry.