12/16/2003 12:00AM

Ozzie Cat fits this group purr-fectly


Although Ozzie Cat is winless in 2003, he should appreciate some class relief in Thursday's $44,000 feature at Aqueduct. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Ozzie Cat has knocked heads with such 3-year-old stalwarts as Ten Most Wanted, Trust N Luck, and Cajun Beat this year, and he raced very wide when the beaten favorite in a Churchill Downs allowance last month.

Ozzie Cat was an early Triple Crown contender for Team Lukas after a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Golden Gate Derby in January. He failed to duplicate that effort in three subsequent graded stakes starts, however, and was sent to the bench to prepare for a fall campaign. In his second start following the layoff, Ozzie Cat earned a 96 Beyer Speed Figure when a rallying fourth in the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Sprint. That performance was flattered when the winner of that race, Cajun Beat, went on to win the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita.

Ozzie Cat won his debut over a muddy strip at Keeneland last year, and would likely appreciate the wet track he will probably encounter on Thursday. He has a gaudy 435 Tomlinson mud rating and has finished in the trifecta in 5 of 8 starts on wet surfaces. He must overcome the far outside post in this two-turn, mile and 70-yard race, but he should get plenty of pace to track, and is a late danger under seven-pound apprentice rider Pedro Cotto Jr.

Host hasn't taken a single backward step on the Beyer scale this year, and enters this race off a third-place finish behind four-time winner Looks Expensive in a one-other-than allowance. In his last race, Host pressed the pace of the winner, and might be even better from stalking range. He faces no such multiple winners in this nonwinners-of-two event. Host will be ridden again by the red-hot Richard Migliore for the John Kimmel barn.

The inner track's leading trainer, Richard Dutrow Jr., also has a contender in the race - Epoxy, who is the highweight. Epoxy whipped maidens in his last start, but might have benefited from a speed-favoring track. He owns competitive Beyer Speed Figures, and worked a bullet five furlongs here on Saturday.

Silent Fred is mired in a two-year losing streak, and has yet to fulfill the potential he showed when he ran third in the 2001 Remsen, behind the classy Saarland. Silent Fred is usually in the mix, however, and a quick pace would bolster this late-runner's chances.

The pace might be hot, thanks to the presence of stretchout sprinters Fighting Roy Kelly and Orion's Jade.