08/16/2001 11:00PM

Perfect Cat's nemeses absent


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Mark Hennig was delighted to pick up the entries for Sunday's $300,000 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap and not see the names Albert the Great, Lido Palace, or Traditionally in the field.

When Perfect Cat isn't running against that trio of Grade 1 winners, he has fared quite well this year. Sunday, Perfect Cat will shoot for his most prestigious victory when he takes on six rivals in the Grade 2 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap at Saratoga.

Perfect Cat, a son of Tabasco Cat, has had a pretty consistent career with a record of 5-7-3 from 25 starts. This year, he has won two allowance races and the Grade 3 William Donald Schaefer Handicap at Pimlico on Preakness Day.

"``I think he's matured a lot, which leads me to believe that Tabasco Cat's [progeny] are going to take time to get there,'' said Hennig, who sent out Summer Colony to win Friday's sixth race by 32 1/4 lengths.

Since then, Perfect Cat finished a respectable second behind Albert the Great in the Brooklyn Handicap and fourth in the Suburban and Whitney handicaps. Although he was beaten

9 1/2 lengths in the Suburban, run at 1 1/4 miles, Hennig believes Perfect Cat was too close to a fast pace that day.

"He didn't run the way he runs his best race,'' Hennig said. "Nobody wanted to put any pressure on Albert so we did.''

Perfect Cat finished fourth in the Whitney, but was beaten only two necks for second. Hennig liked the way he finished in that race. "The last sixteenth, he was still making up ground,'' Hennig said.

Perfect Cat gets in with 115 pounds, seven fewer than highweight Aptitude. He will break from post 3 under Richard Migliore. Perfect Cat should get a solid pace with defending Saratoga Breeders' Cup winner Pleasant Breeze, Gander, and Top Official all likely to vie for the early lead.

Aptitude, the 2000 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes runner-up, is the horse to beat. But his record shows that he can be vulnerable. Aptitude has crossed the finish line first only twice in his career, and is coming off a victory in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup via disqualification.

Trainer Bobby Frankel shipped Aptitude to New York, believing the East Coast tracks would better suit his closing running style.

"You can make up a little more ground on these tracks,'' Frankel said.

Aptitude wore blinkers in his last start and Frankel believes they helped ``keep him more on the bridle.

Canadian shipper A Fleets Dancer and Saratoga horse-for-course Ground Storm complete the field.