02/21/2009 12:00AM

Oyster Cat goes again for Ritter

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NEW ORLEANS - When Oyster Cat won a maiden race last out, it created more questions than it answered. Had he matured and improved, or was it one of the other variables - the changes in distance, surface, track, and jockey?

Monday's Fair Grounds feature race, the ninth, will answer none of those questions, as Oyster Cat returns at the exact same track and distance, on the same surface, and with the same jockey. Only the level of racing has changed, as Oyster Cat goes from maidens to a one-mile first-level allowance race on turf for 3-year-olds.

Oyster Cat last raced on Dec. 20, stalking the pace and winning by 1 1/4 lengths. He has turned in a solid series of works since that race.

"He hasn't run because we haven't been able to get him in a race," said trainer Shannon Ritter. "He's training well, and he's a nice horse to be around."

Oyster Cat's victory came in his first race for Ritter, but she doesn't claim to know which variable was the key, and pointed to the quality of his competition in his first three races.

"He was running with some pretty tough company, losing to Midshipman and Silver City," said Ritter. "Then we switched up surfaces and distance, and maybe those were the changes he needed."

Oyster Cat will meet some other nice 3-year-olds, including Rabbit Tracks, whom he defeated in his last race. While Oyster Cat has been idle, Rabbit Tracks has improved, finishing second two races ago, before putting it all together to win by a head in his last outing, a maiden special weight on Jan. 26 at Fair Grounds.

The class of the field looks to be Orthodox, who returns after a four-month layoff. His last race was a seventh-place effort in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita last October. He has had an undescended testicle removed since the race.

"After the procedure we kept him in Lexington and started him back real slow," said trainer John Glenney. "When it looked like he was ready to get down to business, we brought him to New Orleans, and he has been getting a little better every week."

He has turned in a series of six works at Fair Grounds, and looks ready to fire in his first race back.