10/08/2008 12:00AM

Race tightens for Ohio's top horse

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Those participating in the post-season balloting for Ohio horse of the year honors are in for a difficult choice.

The results of last Saturday's Best of Ohio Series centerpiece races, the Distaff and Endurance, should make for a close vote.

The front-running win by Pay the Man in the 1 1/16-mile Distaff and Catlaunch's brave performance in the 1 1/14-mile Endurance gave both horses four stakes wins this year.

Pay the Man, a 4-year-old Pyrite Stable homebred, was perfect in four stakes starts this year at Thistledown after scoring a handy 6 1/4-length win in the Distaff over last year's winner, Cryptoquip.

Pay the Man has won six Ohio fund stakes at Thistledown and has never been beaten locally by a female rival. Her lone defeat came in last year's Cleveland Gold Cup when she finished second to her male stablemate Pyrite Personal.

"I know that Catlaunch is a very good horse, but I think our filly should be horse of the year," said her trainer, Miguel Feliciano.

Catlaunch displayed a great deal of determination to win the Endurance. He set the pace and turned back a wave of rivals in the final three furlongs to hang on for a head win.

Catlaunch, a 7-year-old Scioto Farm homebred gelding, has won 25 of his 62 starts for earnings of $595,263. He is trained by Ivan Vazquez.

Catlaunch has won 6 of his last 10 stakes.

"He's not too old to run again next year, but we still got a few spots left to run at Beulah Park," said Vazquez. "We'll probably sprint him at Beulah."

* Luis Gonzalez won with 5 of his 8 mounts on Sunday's card and just missed a sixth when he finished second in the third race.

* After going winless in his first 24 rides, all at Presque Isle, Kris Fox won his first race astride Saint Schifty in Monday's third race.