07/19/2006 11:00PM

Real tough cookie for Lloyd


DEL MAR, Calif. - Jamie Lloyd was rightfully worried about the effect Del Mar's opening day crowd might have on Katdogawn.

After all, the mare is a notorious hothead, with paper-thin patience for anything that upsets her narrow view of the world, and her stall in one of the new, frontside mega-barns is no more than a 20-yard stagger to the edge of the grandstand, where a record 42,005 fans were swilling Del Margaritas by the boatload on Wednesday and screaming home their favorites under the hot Pacific sun.

Much to Lloyd's surprise, upon returning to his barn as the 2 p.m. first post approached, there were no holes kicked in Katdogawn's freshly hewn wooden stall panels, no buckets trampled to shreds, and no hospitalized grooms. Oh, sure, there were still teeth marks where the Katdogawn grabbed foreman Jose Valera above his left shoulder, but that happened earlier, at another feeding time, when dinner was being served way too slow for her particular tastes.

"I thought she'd be terrible," a relieved Lloyd said. "But she was quiet as a church mouse."

With the potential crisis dodged, Lloyd is free to carry on toward his Grade 1 debut as a licensed trainer, when Katdogawn carries the colors of Jim Ford and his partners on Saturday in the John C. Mabee Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on the grass.

It is a course over which Katdogawn has done well in the past, winning the 2003 San Clemente Stakes and finishing second in the 2004 running of the Palomar Handicap. This does not hold a candle to the record of likely favorite Amorama, who won the 2005 Mabee as well as the 2004 Del Mar Oaks. But in Katdogawn's defense, she has carried her form far and wide since hitting these shores from her native England, adding stakes wins at Santa Anita, Hollywood and Lone Star, while Amorama can only seem to win the big ones if they take place at Del Mar.

"I've seen tougher fields for this race - there's no Megahertz in there - and she does like the track," Jim Ford noted. "I'm thinking, too, that there's a chance the horses who ran two or three times on the hard course at Hollywood might have some issues by now."

Katdogawn will be making her first start since May 29, when she failed in a defense of her title in the WinStar Distaff Handicap, run on a yielding course at Lone Star Park. She is making her first start for Lloyd, her third stateside trainer, following Jim Cassidy and Wally Dollase.

As British as Katdogawn, Lloyd is the 25-year-old son of former jockey Bill Lloyd, who went on to a second career as manager of England's National Stud. The stud is located in Newmarket, at the heart of the English racing world.

"The last thing my dad wanted me to do was go into racing," Lloyd said Thursday morning in his eight-horse shed row. "He knew what a hard go it was to make any money, and he didn't want me to go through the same tough times he'd had. But horses and farms were all I really knew, so at one point I decided I'd spend 10 years working in every possible job in the business and then decide."

Lloyd got his first racing stable experience with John Hills, son of British trainer Barry Hills and brother of jockeys Richard and Michael Hills. Lloyd also cites the influence of the legendary bloodstock agent James Delahooke, whose purchases for Juddmonte Farms included Dancing Brave, Rainbow Quest, and Rousillon.

"That was my real ambition, to be a bloodstock agent," Lloyd noted. "But then I looked around and saw all these sons and daughters of famous people lining up for the same job, and I thought it might be best to look for an alternative."

He has found it, with Ford's backing, and at a relatively young age.

"He's the man," Ford said. "Okay, he's the kid-man. I guess the last real young guy to make an impact around here was Ron Ellis."

There have been others, but the 46-year-old Ellis is a good example, having trained on his own in California since the age of 20. Ellis got his start from trainer Larry Sterling, while Lloyd most recently spent a year as assistant trainer to Paddy Gallagher.

"He's got experience," said Gallagher, whose powerful string is stabled alongside Lloyd's. "But 25 is young. The idea is to learn from somebody's else's mistakes."

Before Gallagher, Lloyd first worked in California for Jim Cassidy and was with that successful stable when Katdogawn arrived in California at the end of her 2-year-old season. Even then, she was more than a handful.

"One day I was just under the webbing checking her legs when she dropped down, just like a colt would, grabbed me by the back of collar and started giving me a shake," Lloyd recalled. "Luckily, I had plenty of layers on - a shirt, sweater and jacket - but she had pretty much all of that. When she finished, she flung me backwards across the shedrow and just stared at me, daring me to come back."

Looks like he took the dare.