07/03/2003 11:00PM

Speed may rule in two handicaps


CHICAGO - One never knows what's going through a racehorse's mind. We assign them human characteristics, like competitiveness or a lack of it, but who really can say if such terms even fall into the right realm?

With speed horses, the possibility of a cross-species disconnect lessens. Front-runners separate themselves from the herd and all of its social complexities. The will to pass? It's a nonissue.

Speed is king in American racing, though Sunday at Arlington, queen is more appropriate. On a strong nine-race Sunday card, there are two overnight handicaps, both for fillies, and both susceptible to front-running speed.

The first of them, the fifth race, is for 3-year-old fillies at a mile on turf. Cat's Cat has the best speed in this spot. She used it to good advantage the last time she ran, and she must be caught on Sunday, too.

Cat's Cat is a Frankel filly - not trainer Bobby, but owner Jerry. She started her career late last year sprinting on dirt in California, but has found a home racing on grass for the Midwest trainer Mike Stidham.

"I think she's going to be a lot more consistent filly on turf," Stidham said Friday morning. "I liked her turf sprint at Fair Grounds this winter, and she ran well last time. She came out of the race good, and she's trained well since. I like the way she's coming into this race."

Cat's Cat has eight rivals, including Shot Gun Favorite, who ran her down in deep stretch three weeks ago. Shot Gun Favorite had a perfect trip that day and may need another to catch Cat's Cat if her speed controls Sunday's race.

Cat's Cat has measured route speed. Three races later, the real speedsters come out. The eighth is for older fillies at 6 1/2 furlongs, and there are plenty of alternatives for pace-enamored players. The one-eyed mare Soul Onarazorsedge returns from a lengthy layoff; Endless Hour ships in from Prairie Meadows, and post 1 forces her to use her speed; and Double Audit has led at every call in two wins to begin her career.

But the best of the speed horses here may be Pass the Pepper, whose one foray into stakes company was a disaster. Trainer Michelle Boyce figured that Pass the Pepper's ample pace could control a route race; she might have been right, but someone else had the same idea, and the March 29 Lady Hallie at Hawthorne turned into an all-out speed duel.

Back to sprints, Pass the Pepper won for the fourth time in seven starts here May 16 when she beat up on fourth-level allowance horses, running six furlongs in a snappy 1:10. Conservative by nature, Boyce shunned the Chicago Breeders' Cup and a trip to Prairie Meadows for this race, and Pass the Pepper, as Boyce hoped, has landed in a good spot.

Too much pace, however, sets this race up for the Nebraska-bred filly Oglala Sue. A distant third last out in the Chicago BC, Oglala Sue probably is sitting on a peak race for trainer Hugh Robertson. And while we only can guess at what thoughts float through Oglala Sue's mind as she races, her record speaks clearly - 7 wins in 19 starts.