05/14/2009 12:00AM

Queen of the Catsle hard to knock


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Much has changed since Queen of the Catsle won her fourth straight, including three stakes, back on Oct. 29.

And though trainer Howard Zucker promises Queen of the Catsle "is still the same filly," he recognizes the female turf sprint division in Southern California has undergone serious revision since fall.

"It's such a different bunch from what we were seeing last summer," Zucker said. "But this filly has never needed any help. She really understands what she is out there for."

All that Queen of the Catsle does is win. She is 6 for 13 overall, won five of her last six, and finished no worse than second in all eight of her turf starts. But when she returns Friday night at Hollywood Park in the $60,000 Lawndale Stakes, she will face two racing-fit rivals that will give her a test in her first start in six months.

Reba Is Tops, runner-up in the Grade 3 Las Cienegas at Santa Anita, and Everlasting Beauty, runner-up in a two-turn stakes last out at Lone Star, provide the main challenge in the five-furlong turf sprint, race 7 on an eight-race card that starts at 7:05 p.m. Pacific.

Queen of the Catsle "got a little bruised up" Zucker said, explaining her layoff. Although Zucker would have preferred running her farther than five furlongs, he said, "She's training great, she's fresh, and look at her record going five-eighths at Del Mar."

In a seven-week period last summer at Del Mar, Queen of the Catsle won twice and finished second with trouble in three consecutive turf sprints at five furlongs. Victor Espinoza rides Queen of the Catsle, who drew post 7 in the seven-filly lineup.

The most likely winner Friday is Reba Is Tops, runner-up in the Gradeo3 Las Cienegas. She won 8 of 13 starts up and down the West Coast at Emerald Downs, Golden Gate, and Bay Meadows, and then shipped to trainer Mark Glatt after recovering from a summer 2008 illness that knocked her out for several months.

Reba Is Tops rallied from off the pace to finish second in her Southern California debut March 6, then missed by a nose in the Las Cienegas. That race produced three next-start winners.

"I'm not overly enthused about the race being five-eighths," Glatt admits. But he is confident Reba Is Tops is quick enough to make her own trip pressing the front-runners drawn to her inside - Everlasting Beauty and River Glow. Joe Talamo rides Reba Is Tops.

Ms. Olympio, Porto Marnay, and Elletelle are also entered.