01/04/2008 12:00AM

Slow learner catching on for Ruthless


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Carolyn's Cat may be a bit of a slow learner, but now that she appears to have figured out her job, she might be ready to live up to her strong breeding and lofty price tag.

Coming off a solid maiden victory seven weeks ago, Carolyn's Cat steps up into stakes company Sunday when she meets five other 3-year-old fillies in the $75,000 Ruthless Stakes at six furlongs over Aqueduct's inner track.

Carolyn's Cat is a daughter of Forestry out of the Meadowlake mare People's Princess, who won the Grade 3 Rare Treat Handicap over the inner track in 2002. Carolyn's Cat was purchased for $650,000 by owner William Warren at the 2006 Saratoga yearling sale.

She debuted at Saratoga on Aug. 30, finishing seventh behind Indian Blessing, who nearly set a track record and who went on to win two Grade 1 races, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

In her second start, Carolyn's Cat showed speed from the gate, dueled with another horse before giving way in the final furlong and finishing fifth, beaten four lengths. In her third start, Carolyn's Cat dueled another horse into defeat en route to a 1 1/4-length victory, a race from which the third-place finisher came back to win.

"We always liked her," said Art Magnusson, the New York-based assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "It's taken a couple of starts for her to figure it out. She's gotten better every time."

Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. was planning to run Expect the End in a New York-bred overnight stakes on Sunday, but the race didn't fill. So he paid the $750 supplemental fee to run in the Ruthless. Expect the End won three consecutive statebred stakes before being drubbed in the Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes at 1 1/8 miles over the main track.

"She didn't break good that day and didn't have a good trip, and she didn't belong with those horses," Dutrow said.

Though Expect the End has won from 4o1/2 furlongs to a mile, Dutrow thought her best race was her 13 1/2-length victory in the Jena Jena Stakes going six furlongs at Saratoga. Expect the End sat just off the pace that day, though she may have to use her speed from the rail on Sunday.

Dill or No Dill is another speedy sort who rebounded from a dismal showing in the Grade 1 Frizette with a good second in the Xtra Heat Stakes.

"I think maybe she doesn't have to be as hard-ridden to the lead, and that might make a little bit of a difference," trainer Gary Contessa said.

Psycho D J and Noble Fire, an uncoupled entry trained by Linda Rice, and Home Crowd complete the field.

* Though there were no winning favorites on Friday's nine-race card, bettors still hit the pick six, with 15 winning tickets each returning $27,870. There were 307 consolation tickets (5 of 6) each returning $278. There was a carryover of $161,990 entering the card, and an additional $455,299 was wagered into the pool.