07/07/2005 11:00PM

Nolan's Cat stubbornly pursues stakes win

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Nolan's Cat, the 3-year-old maiden who finished third in the June 11 Belmont Stakes, has been delayed in his return to action after sustaining a minor ankle injury that kept him out of training for several days.

"It really wasn't a big deal, but there wasn't any need to press on it, so we haven't," said trainer Dale Romans. "He's back in training. He just missed a few days because I was being cautious with him."

Nolan's Cat has faced exceptionally strong competition while going winless in six career starts. In back-to-back maiden races at Gulfstream Park last winter, he was beaten by Noble Causeway, the eventual runner-up in the Florida Derby, and Coin Silver, the eventual winner of the Lexington Stakes. He then ran a close second in a Churchill Downs maiden race to A.P. Arrow, who eventually finished fifth in the Belmont.

In the Belmont, Nolan's Cat, a 20-1 shot, was 11th and last through the early stages before launching a steady rally to finish nearly 14 lengths behind Afleet Alex.

Ramsey has said he doesn't mind skipping maiden conditions with Nolan's Cat, saying he wants to see the colt get his first win in a stakes "just to prove he can do it."

Whatever works, counters Romans.

"If that's what Mr. Ramsey wants, we'll give it a go," said Romans. "I haven't picked out a spot yet, but there are plenty of options."

Meanwhile, Roses in May, winner of the $6 million Dubai World Cup for Ramsey and Romans, is nearing his first breeze since getting time off following that March 26 race. "It will be a week or so," Romans said Friday.

Romans said he plans to send about 40 horses to the Saratoga meet that begins July 27. Roses in May and Nolan's Cat will be part of that contingent, but he said Kitten's Joy, the reigning turf champion who won his seasonal debut Monday in the Firecracker Handicap, might remain behind at Churchill. Kitten's Joy runs next in the Aug. 13 Arlington Million.

Big fields, quality runners close meet

Churchill really emptied out its holster on closing weekend. In the three-day span ending Sunday, the track will have run 13 allowance races, two overnight stakes, and two graded stakes, not to mention a bunch of maiden special weight races. Moreover, most of the fields in every category were large ones.

"We ended the meet on a very good note," said Churchill racing secretary Doug Bredar.

Besides the Bashford Manor Stakes, the Sunday card also includes five allowances. As an example of the quality that will be showcased, the fifth race, a $68,200 turf route for older horses, has five stakes winners from its eight starters, including millionaire Freefourinternet and a horse who would surpass the million-dollar mark with a victory, Del Mar Show.

Music School ailing

Music School, the A.P. Indy colt who won his only start despite stumbling badly at the start, was not entered in the Bashford Manor after coming down with a lung infection early this week.

Trainer Neil Howard said the setback is a minor one and he hopes to run Music School in the first stakes for 2-year-old males at the Saratoga meet, the July 28 Saratoga Special.

Four pick six winners

Four winning $2 tickets were sold on the pick six Thursday, with each worth $28,551.60. No winners were sold ontrack.

With a carryover of $50,355 into the day, another $105,106 was bet into the pool. Favorites dominated the pick six until Final Endeavor captured the last race at $36.40.

Two handicappers headed to Vegas

Two berths in the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship were filled Thursday when John Livesay and Warren Schad finished first and second in the finals of the meet-long handicapping contest at Churchill.

Livesay, from Louisville, earned $5,000, and Schad, from Clarksville, Ind., earned $2,500. They will represent Churchill in the National Handicapping Championship at Bally's in Las Vegas in January.

The jockey agent known only as Clarence finished third in the local contest to earn $1,000.

* Longtime jockey Dean Sarvis, sidelined since he sustained a fractured shoulder blade in a spill in the last race May 28 at Churchill, hopes to get clearance from his physician to start getting on horses July 20. Sarvis was the leading rider at the 2004 holiday meet and the 2005 winter-spring meet at Turfway.

* Woodford Reserve Stables, a new ownership venture created earlier this year by executives at Brown-Forman Corp. in Louisville, will make its debut Sunday when Distill My Heart runs in the last race.