08/05/2004 12:00AM

'So Sweet' stretches to victory

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - So Sweet a Cat was the most accomplished horse in Thursday's $250,000 Statue of Liberty at Saratoga, but she had never been tested beyond seven furlongs.

The crowd of 16,849 made South Wing the 2-1 favorite, but it was So Sweet a Cat who came home an eight-length winner in the Statue of Liberty, for 3-year-old fillies who are the progeny of New York stallions. South Wing, who led the field for six furlongs, finished second. It was another 10 lengths back to Cat's Roar in third in the 11-horse field.

So Sweet a Cat, a daughter of Tomorrows Cat, was ridden by John Velazquez and returned $8.50 as the second choice.

Velazquez said the key to the victory was that So Sweet a Cat was relaxed during the early stages of the 1 1/8-mile race.

"Going from three-quarters to a mile and an eighth was a worry, but she was very kind and got behind the leaders," Velazquez said.

The final time was 1:51.67.

Ralph D'Alessandro, So Sweet a Cat's trainer, said, "I knew she would go long. It was just a matter of finding the right race to stretch out. She gave it her all. She is a very nice filly."

Alessandro, who is based at Finger Lakes, said So Sweet a Cat's next race could come there in the New York Oaks on Sept. 6.

So Sweet a Cat was bred by her owner, Jane Freed, and foaled and raised at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in Saratoga Springs. Chowder's First, who won the male division of the Stallion Stakes, the Cab Calloway, on Wednesday, also was foaled and raised at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds.