05/05/2003 11:00PM

Katdogawn gets turf sprint

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Katdogawn and her trainer, Jim Cassidy, were short on options this winter at Santa Anita. Handicappers wagering on the Thursday card at Hollywood Park can relate.

Katdogawn is a turf sprinter who cannot route. Not well, anyway. But after a promising U.S. debut in February, the only two races Cassidy could find for Katdogawn were around two turns. Katdogawn was not disgraced in either - beaten less than five lengths - but her performances were inferior to her runner-up finish in the 6 1/2-furlong La Habra Stakes.

Thursday at Hollywood Park, Katdogawn will welcome favorable conditions - a turf sprint for 3-year-old fillies. Katdogawn is one of six entrants in the seventh-race feature on a shallow weekday card. The eight-race card includes four races for maidens, and four other races for winners that have an average of seven starters. Wagering options and handicapping decisions are limited.

Katdogawn's main rivals in the one-other-than/optional $80,000 claimer are Sharpbill, making her second U.S. start, and Fudge Fatale, a recent maiden winner who has found her niche in turf sprints. Three others entered - Don't Tell Wendy, stepping up in class after a four-length win in a slow starter allowance; Madringa, a lightly raced gray who is certain to set the pace; and off-form Miss Nicolie. Unless Madringa gets loose, the race is likely to be won by Katdogawn, Sharpbill, or Fudge Fatale.

Cassidy was mired in a frustrating winter until his European imports began to deliver. The trainer ended the Santa Anita meet with four wins and 13 seconds from 57 starters, and it was his new faces who carried the stable, including Steelaninch, winner of the $150,000 La Puente, and Star Vega, who won the $150,000 Providencia. Katdogawn might also have won a stakes, but her furious rally in the Feb. 28 La Habra on came up a head short. Cassidy stretched her out in successive routes, with little success. She finished a troubled third in a March 20 allowance, then pressed the paced and tired to last in the April 13 Providencia.

The turf sprint Thursday will be the first start since then for Katdogawn, and if she reproduces her La Habra effort, she can win. She is scheduled to be ridden by Mike Smith.

Whereas Katdogawn does not require improvement to win, Sharpbill does. She finished a good third in her April 6 U.S. debut for trainer Vladimir Cerin, and most Cerin acquisitions improve with racing. Pat Valenzuela rides Sharpbill. Fudge Fatale won a maiden race by 2 1/2 lengths April 20, while flattered by the slow pace.