Updated on 09/16/2011 6:49AM

Raging Fever logical choice


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Shug McGaughey knows that the best chance Cat Cay has of beating speedsters Raging Fever and Tugger is if they "come back to her a little bit" at the end of Friday's seven-furlong Shirley Jones Handicap. And that might happen if those two fillies hook up in an early duel in the Grade 3 race.

Cat Cay rallied to finish second, beaten two lengths by Raging Fever, in the six-furlong First Lady Handicap four weeks earlier. And McGaughey figures the extra eighth of a mile may also enhance his filly's chance in Friday's rematch.

"My filly just got outrun by Raging Fever at six furlongs," said McGaughey. "She shook loose on the turn and we had a hard time catching her. The extra distance and a fast pace will help us Friday and so will the racetrack, which is a little tighter now than it was the last time they met."

Unfortunately for McGaughey, his colleague Todd Pletcher is uncertain whether he will run Tugger in the Shirley Jones or await a softer spot later in the meet.

"I'll enter her then take a look and see how the race shapes up," Pletcher said shortly before entries closed for the Shirley Jones on Wednesday. "Tugger fits with these horses on her best day, but my main concern is the pace scenario. She's can't go 21 and change and 44 and change under pressure and beat those fillies. The lineup and post position will influence my decision as will the weather. There's rain in the forecast and that could change the complexion of the race as well. Whether I start Tugger or scratch will be a raceday decision."

No matter who starts or scratches, Raging Fever remains the logical favorite and horse to beat in the Shirley Jones in her current form. A daughter of Storm Cat and Pennant Fever, Raging Fever has won both starts since returning from a 7 1/2-month layoff with a wire-to-wire victory in the Garland of Roses Handicap at Aqueduct on Dec. 8. But she was beaten as the 3-5 favorite in her only two previous tries at seven furlongs.

John Velazquez, who was reunited with Raging Fever in the First Lady and is perfect in three starts aboard the filly, will again have the mount on Friday.

Irish Fantasy, Celtic Melody, Vague Memory, and Superduper Miss round out the starting lineup.

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