08/25/2005 11:00PM

My Trusty Cat takes another crack

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Forest Music, with John Velazquez, is a question mark at seven furlongs.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - has since become a Grade 1 winner, but the memory of her head loss to Lady Tak in last year's Ballerina Handicap still resonates for trainer David Vance.

"She had a tough trip," Vance said Friday from Monmouth Park. "She had a horse laying on her turning for home. She finally got away from her and came up between horses and just didn't get there. She got bounced around a little bit. There was a 10-minute inquiry, but they didn't do anything. We're coming to try again."

My Trusty Cat will face the speedy and the Louisiana-bred sensation Happy Ticket in Sunday's $250,000 Ballerina at seven furlongs. Vision of Beauty, Molto Vita, Bank Audit, and Pleasant Home complete the field.

Last year, My Trusty Cat prepped for the Ballerina with a nose victory in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss Handicap. This year, My Trusty Cat prepped for the Ballerina by finishing second, beaten a head, in the Regret Stakes at Monmouth Park.

"The filly hadn't run for seven weeks so I needed to run her," Vance said. "She ran well. Two more jumps and she wins."

My Trusty Cat worked a strong five furlongs in 1:01.40 Tuesday at Monmouth, and was expected to ship here on Saturday morning. Javier Castellano, who rode My Trusty Cat to victory in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, has the call.

While trainer Steve Asmussen won't have the recently retired Lady Tak to run in the Ballerina, he will send out Forest Music, who looms the main speed in the race. Asmussen took over the training of Forest Music in the spring after Jess Jackson purchased her privately from Michael Gill.

Forest Music won the Honorable Miss by two lengths in front-running fashion, giving Asmussen his 3,000th career win as a trainer. The big question for Forest Music is if she can carry her speed seven furlongs. In her only try at the distance, Forest Music was beaten 10 lengths.

Forest Music will break from the outside post in the Ballerina. Four of the last five times Forest Music has drawn outside, she has won. The lone exception was the Test, which was run over a wet track.

"From the outside you can more simulate what you see in the morning," Asmussen said. "An inside draw you change the pressure and circumstances that you see in the morning. We won with her from the outside post, so it's like 'Can we have it again please?' It's still going to be a question of whether she can hold everybody off going seven-eighths."

Jerry Bailey rides Forest Music.

Bailey replaces John Velazquez, who has opted to ride Happy Ticket in the Ballerina. Happy Ticket won her first nine career starts before finishing second to Madcap Escapade in the Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder last month. Happy Ticket had a tough trip in the race, according to trainer Andrew Leggio Jr.

"It was a disaster," said Leggio, who gave the mount to Eddie Castro in that race. "She leapt in the air, was back there. He caught room, rushed her up between horses, then he had to drop back and was last again by two lengths. He took her to the outside, circled the field around the turn. She came running but the race was over with."

Prior to the Princess Rooney, Happy Ticket won the Grade 3 Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap by 3 1/2 lengths. My Trusty Cat finished fourth in that race.

Bank Audit finished third behind Forest Music in the Honorable Miss and should appreciate the stretch out to seven furlongs, a distance at which she is 2 for 2.

Trainer Shug McGaughey seeks his sixth Ballerina victory with Pleasant Home, who would move up on a wet track.