10/14/2004 11:00PM

Molta Vita enters TCA on week's rest


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Dallas Stewart doesn't normally run a horse back so quickly, but he is having a hard time forgetting what Bobby Frankel did to him at Saratoga this summer.

"Beat me with Midas Eyes on an eight-day rest," he said. "I had Clock Stopper in the Grade 1 [Forego], and he runs second to Frankel."

So Stewart, armed with yet another lesson he has learned in a racing career of nearly 30 years, chose to enter in the $125,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes. The Grade 3 TCA Stakes will be run at Keeneland for the 24th time Sunday, just one week after Molto Vita, owned by John Gunther, ran second to Lady Tak in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom at Belmont Park.

"She flew up and back for the race," said Stewart, the former longtime D. Wayne Lukas assistant based at Churchill Downs. "She came out of it good, as far as I can tell. I talked the whole thing over with the owner and went ahead and put her in. We're going to wait until the morning of the race to see if we actually run, but if the filly's right, we'll be there."

If Molto Vita is in the lineup, she should be a major contender in the six-furlong race - which would mark a change in how horseplayers have treated her lately. In her last four starts, all good ones, Molto Vita has been dismissed at 23-1, 14-1, 29-1, and 8-1.

"I don't know why that's happened," said Stewart. "Not my department."

Besides Molto Vita - who has two wins, one second, and one fourth from those last four starts - the TCA Stakes also drew Summer Mis, the Chicago-based filly who won the 2003 TCA; My Trusty Cat, winner of the Grade 2 Honorable Miss two starts back for jockey Pat Day and trainer David Vance; and My Boston Gal, who has won five of 11 starts and more than $475,000.

The TCA cast is completed by Souris and Our Josephina.

My Trusty Cat, with Day riding again, figures as the post-time favorite off her last two races, both at Saratoga. After rallying from far back to win the Honorable Miss, she launched another searing run to barely miss catching Lady Tak in the Grade 1 Ballerina. Keeneland, however, has not necessarily favored late-running styles so far this meet, and My Trusty Cat might be at a tactical disadvantage in a short field.