05/01/2003 12:00AM

A sharp That Tat tries stakes


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - That Tat, who set a track record in a Lone Star allowance race in his last start, will move back into stakes company Saturday for the track's $75,000 Ford Express.

The race has been shortened in distance to six furlongs after previously being run at 6 1/2 furlongs. Other top contenders in the field include stakes winners Richest Half and Doctor Mike.

In his last start April 11, That Tat ran 5 1/2 furlongs in a blazing 1:01.80, winning by 5 1/2 lengths. He stalked the pace through an opening quarter-mile run in 21.60 seconds, and took over through a half-mile in 43.80.

"He showed up that night ready to perform," said Cole Norman, who trains That Tat for owner Ken Murphy.

Norman said That Tat, who has won both of his starts this year, is no worse for the wear following his record-setting performance.

"He came out of it okay," Norman said. "He's the same old That Tat."

First or second in his last 10 starts, That Tat won the $40,000 Folklore 8Handicap at Louisiana Downs last fall, and will be out to give Norman his second straight win in the Ford Express. Norman won it last year with Beau's Town.

Like Beau's Town, That Tat can either be on the lead or stalk, Norman said.

"And I think he can go from five-eighths to seven-eighths," Norman said. "He's one of our favorites."

That's because of his record, as well as his pedigree. That Tat is a half-brother to High Timer, a horse Norman claimed twice and won nine races with, some of them for Murphy.

Eddie Martin Jr., has the mount on That Tat Saturday.

Richest Half will make his second start of the year Saturday. He won his seasonal debut at Oaklawn March 29 leading from wire to wire, a departure from his typical off-the-pace style.

"He hadn't run in a long time, and I just think he was a lot sharper and ran accordingly," said trainer Steve Asmussen, who has given the mount to Corey Lanerie.

Doctor Mike, who defeated That Tat in the $30,000 Island Whirl at Louisiana Downs in September, cuts back from a two-turn turf race for the Ford Express. He won the last time he went from a turf route to a dirt sprint.

"I think we'll be tough," said trainer Troy Young. Gerard Melancon will ride.