06/15/2005 11:00PM

My Trusty Cat seeks repeat

My Trusty Cat, here winning the Humana Distaff last time out, has proved to be first-rate going seven furlongs.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - My Trusty Cat is bred like a route horse. When she was young, she seemed to run like a route horse. If it looks like a route horse and acts like a route horse, it must be a route horse, right?

Actually, no, as trainer Dave Vance fully comprehended in March 2004. My Trusty Cat had won her first start that season, closing like a high-end real estate broker to win a sprint race at Oaklawn Park. Vance took the logical next step, stretching My Trusty Cat out to two turns in a stakes race.

"She spit the bit, and I said, 'That's it,' " Vance recalled. "We would run her long, run her long, and it just didn't seem to be working for her."

Plan B, a sprint career, panned out. My Trusty Cat has evolved into one of the top sprinting mares in the country. She won the Honorable Miss at Saratoga last summer and missed by a head three weeks later in the Grade 1 Ballerina, and Saturday at Arlington, on the heels of a victory in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs, My Trusty Cat will try to win the Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap for the second straight season.

, a lightning bolt from Louisiana who has yet to lose after eight starts. Also entered were graded stakes winners Injustice and Savorthetime, with longshots Silver Crown, Two Punch Gal, and Fly Away Angel rounding out the field.

My Trusty Cat, if all things hum along, will head back to Saratoga and adhere to the same stakes schedule as last season. She was overshadowed this spring by the brilliant filly Madcap Escapade, but beat her in the Humana Distaff, and might prove to be a match for any female sprinter this year, at least at My Trusty Cat's ideal seven-furlong distance.

"Just throw out her 3-year-old year," said Vance, who trains My Trusty Cat for his longtime owner, Carl Pollard. "She's a 5-year-old now, and she's really just maturing. She's got a strong quarter-mile lick. She'll lay four or five lengths off the pace, but she can sit closer when she has to."

The pace Saturday shouldn't get crazy, but it ought to be fast enough to set the table for My Trusty Cat, who has been working fast at Churchill since her win on May 7. The Arlington stretch is short compared to Churchill's, but jockey Shaun Bridgmohan is an excellent position rider, and should put My Trusty Cat in the right spot.

She figures to be taking aim at , who turns back in distance after stretch fades in recent two-turn races, and Happy Ticket, who shipped here last weekend from Louisiana Downs for trainer Andy Leggio. Leggio rarely forays outside his home tracks - Fair Grounds, Louisiana Downs, and sometimes Lone Star Park - but he thinks he has the right horse to take on the road. Few who have seen Happy Ticket dominate her competition in Louisiana would disagree. She has won races from six furlongs up to 1 1/16 miles, on turf and on dirt, and appears to have quickly adapted to life away from home.