02/14/2005 12:00AM

Major test for Big Top Cat

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Big Top Cat can prove he is worthy of being considered a Triple Crown hopeful when he makes his first start around two turns in a $52,000 allowance race at Santa Anita on Wednesday.

At the least, Big Top Cat's bloodlines suggest that a race over 1 1/16 miles is within his ability. Big Top Cat is by top stallion Storm Cat out of Golden Attraction, the champion 2-year-old filly of 1995.

Owned by Overbrook Farm and trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Big Top Cat is coming off a hard-fought victory in a six-furlong maiden race on Jan. 29. In that race, he fought for the lead through fractions of 21.39 and 44.05 seconds and won by a neck.

"I thought it was a good race," Lukas said. "He carved out suicidal fractions and still won."

Wednesday's race, the fourth on a nine-race program, has drawn six 3-year-olds. starts from the outside post and may be able to clear to an easy lead. None of his opponents have shown a tendency to set the pace.

"We'll stretch him out and see if he likes two turns," Lukas said.

The Jan. 29 race marked Big Top Cat's third start. Last year, he was well beaten in maiden races at Saratoga and Churchill Downs, finishing ninth and sixth. Since winning his maiden, Big Top Cat has returned to work five furlongs in 58.60 seconds on Feb. 6, the fastest of 46 recorded works at the distance.

Five of the six entrants in Wednesday's race are nominated for the Triple Crown - Big Top Cat, Cat Robber, Distorted, Golden Shine, and Lucky Bid. The exception is Royal Classic, who won a one-mile maiden race for $50,000 claimers over a sloppy track in his sixth career start.

is the only runner who has placed in a stakes, having finished second in the restricted Pinjara Stakes over a mile on turf last October. Trained by Ron McAnally, Lucky Bid was fourth in an allowance race on Jan. 14. He was two lengths behind third-place finisher Scipion, who returned to win the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds last Saturday.

is making his first start in more than seven months. He won a maiden race over 5 1/2 furlongs by four lengths last July but was later sidelined with sore shins.

Trainer David Hofmans took a patient approach in bringing Golden Shine back to racing and the colt has worked well in recent weeks.