07/31/2003 11:00PM

Royal Pet looks tough to catch in Rebel


The $50,000 Rebel for 2-year-old fillies at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La., on Sunday presents a common dilemma when handicapping races for young horses: Does one side with the battle-tested model, or an exciting upstart?

There are plenty of both in the Rebel, a 5 1/2-furlong race that drew 14 fillies. There will be 13 betting interests with the coupling of Miss Meister and Queen Trigger.

Royal Pet, a battle-tested filly, could go favored based on the

company she kept in her last start when second to the undefeated Bluegrass Sara in the $75,000 Silver Spur Breeders' Cup at Lone Star Park on July 12.

Royal Pet did the grunt work in that six-furlong race, setting pressured fractions of 21.80 seconds for the opening quarter and 44.40 for the half before being overtaken by Bluegrass Sara.

Royal Pet ended up six lengths back, no disgrace considering that Bluegrass Sara, who has won two stakes in three starts, turned in a stunning performance and was subsequently voted Lone Star's champion 2-year-old filly.

Before her clash with Bluegrass Sara, Royal Pet was a romping maiden winner. She is a daughter of the recently deceased Desert Royalty, whose chief earner, Grade 3 winner Eagle Lake, shares the same connections as Royal Pet.

Both are owned by Turf Express and trained by Cole Norman. Royal Pet will be ridden by Jamie Theriot.

As for the up-and-comers, there are several in the field, with seven of the fillies having won maiden races in their last starts. But one who sticks out is Cabildo Bag, who was an impressive stalk-and-pounce debut winner June 27 at Louisiana Downs.

Since the race, she has worked four furlongs in a bullet 48.40 seconds at Evangeline Downs. Josh Romero has the mount for trainer Glenn Delahoussaye.

Another of interest is first-time starter Kissin My Friends. She has been working fast, and is out of the Grade 1-winning mare A Kiss for Luck, who earned $588,896.