07/22/2004 12:00AM

Light Jig going the right way

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Although Moscow Burning won the Sheepshead Bay as a front-runner, trainer Jim Cassidy doesn't want her on the lead in the John Mabee.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Since arriving from France last winter, is a nose away from having a perfect record. Three wins in four starts, including a win in the Grade 2 Beverly Hills Handicap at Hollywood Park in late June, have vaulted her into a leading role in California's competitive filly and mare turf division.

Saturday, Light Jig's career trajectory can continue when she starts in the richest race of her career in the $400,000 John Mabee Handicap for fillies and mares at Del Mar.

Run over 1 1/8 miles on turf, the Grade 1 Mabee, formerly known as the Ramona Handicap, has drawn a strong field of seven. Dimitrova, the winner of the 2003 American Oaks; Musical Chimes, the winner of the French 1000 Guineas in 2003; and , who won the Sheepshead Bay Handicap at Belmont Park in June, are leading candidates.

The John Mabee is the top race on a 10-race program that includes the $100,000 Fleet Treat Stakes for 3-year-old statebred fillies.

Light Jig has started in six stakes in her career, but the Beverly Hills is her only win at that level. In France, she placed in two minor stakes. Since arriving in California, Light Jig, 4, has thrived under trainer Bobby Frankel.

Owned by Juddmonte Farms, Light Jig won an allowance race in her U.S. debut in February, finished a troubled second by a nose in an allowance race at Santa Anita in April, and won an optional claimer at Hollywood on May 27 before scoring by a length in the Beverly Hills.

"I knew she was a good filly, but I didn't know what category," said Humberto Ascanio, an assistant to Frankel. "She's always impressed me, and every race is better and better."

Light Jig should be well placed in the Mabee. She has shown the ability to stalk the pace or come from behind. The race lacks a confirmed front-runner.

Trainers Jim Cassidy and Neil Drysdale each have two runners.

Drysdale trains Dimitrova and Musical Chimes, both of whom enter the race on losing streaks. Dimitrova is winless in three starts since the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Handicap last September at Belmont Park.

Musical Chimes is winless in seven starts since the French 1000 Guineas in May 2003. She was seventh against males in the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Handicap at Hollywood on June 12. Both she and Dimitrova must run well for Drysdale to consider the $750,000 Beverly D. at Arlington Park on Aug. 14.

Cassidy starts Moscow Burning and Katdogawn, who won the Dahlia Handicap last December and was a troubled second in the Grade 3 Royal Heroine Stakes over a mile on turf at Hollywood on July 3.

Moscow Burning finished second to Light Jig in the Beverly Hills, her first start since the Sheepshead Bay. Moscow Burning led throughout the Sheepshead Bay, which was run in a slow pace.

"When they came to her, she was gone," Cassidy said. "I will not use her up on the front end. My first inclination is to have Moscow a little closer and not on the lead. It's one thing to go wire-to-wire when they go a half in 50."

Cassidy is hopeful that Katdogawn can end a three-race losing streak, dating back to the Grade 2 Santa Ana Handicap at Santa Anita in March. In that race, Katdogawn finished second but was promoted to first following the disqualification of Megahertz for interference in the stretch. Katdogawn, 4, has not finished first since her nose victory at 7-1 in the Dahlia Handicap last December.

Most recently, Katdogawn finished two lengths behind Midwest invader Janeian in the Royal Heroine Stakes over a mile on turf at Hollywood on July 3. Katdogawn was essentially eliminated when she broke slowly under Mike Smith.

"She was perfect and just as they opened the door, she stepped back," Cassidy said. "Mike said she needed to be 10 lengths best and she was only eight."

A longer race will allow some margin of error on Saturday, but the competition is much tougher.