03/26/2002 1:00AM

Montana Cat back under new boss


JAMAICA, N.Y. - A pair of $45,000 second-level allowance races highlight Thursday's nine-race card at Aqueduct.

The seventh, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for fillies and mares, drew eight runners.

The stakes-placed Montana Cat, making her initial start for a new trainer, Jimmy Jerkens, returns to the races for the first time since January 2001.

Montana Cat, a 4-year-old owned by Frank Stronach, jumped a condition to win a second-level allowance at Woodbine in November 2000. Her only other win, also at Woodbine, came in the maiden ranks in the summer of 2000.

Montana Cat, previously trained by Tino Attard, raced twice at Aqueduct last year during the inner track meet, with decent results. In the Ruthless, Mountain Cat finished a strong third, beaten only 1 3/4 lengths by win-machine Xtra Heat. In the Busanda, Mountain Cat's last start, she finished third behind Diversa, who came back to win the Busher.

Aaron Gryder rides Montana Cat, who drew post 3.

If the layoff proves too much for Montana Cat, logical contenders include Saskya and Fit Performer, who finished second and third at this level on March 9.

The eighth race drew nine older males going seven furlongs.

Seeking Daylight, a lightly raced Seeking the Gold colt, could be the horse to beat if he runs back to his two monster efforts at Aqueduct in 2000. A 4-year-old who is trained by Mark Hennig, Seeking Daylight won his first two career starts by a combined 10 1/2 lengths at the Big A as a 2-year-old. Seeking Daylight didn't compete as a 3-year-old and returned to action on Feb. 27 in a Gulfstream Park allowance race, in which he finished seventh. Before shipping north, Seeking Daylight worked a half-mile in 48 seconds at Gulfstream last Thursday, the fastest of 27 works at the distance.

John Velazquez rides Seeking Daylight, who drew post 8.

Graze, a winner of back-to-back claiming races at the Fair Grounds during the winter, could pose a threat to Seeking Daylight.

Trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., Graze has a win and a second at seven furlongs over Aqueduct's main track.

Earlier on the card, Trial Prep, a promising 3-year-old from Dutrow's barn, is entered in the second race, a preliminary allowance for statebreds.

Trial Prep went to the sidelines last year after winning his debut by three lengths in solid time. Dutrow brought him back to the races on Feb. 24, and Trial Prep stumbled badly leaving the gate and lost a lot of ground, yet still managed to finish third.

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