02/06/2003 12:00AM

Sunland: Tee Cat likely favorite


SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - Saturday's 1 1/16-mile, $50,000-added Curribot Handicap drew only seven, any of whom could emerge the victor. With Premeditation going to Phoenix last week for the Turf Paradise Breeders' Cup, in which he finished off the board, the Curribot has come up wide open.

As usual, trainer Steve Asmussen has a van headed this way and it is likely carrying the favorite. Tee Cat, a 5-year-old Tabasco Cat horse owned by Preston Stables, most recently set the pace in Sam Houston's Maxam Gold Cup before weakening in the stretch and finishing fourth, beaten six lengths by Valhol. Tee Cat has solid, if unremarkable, form and will be tough to beat. Sal Gonzalez has the mount.

Leloup, trained by Peter Stephen, ran a huge race last out to be beaten just a head by Premeditation in last month's Winsham Lad Handicap at odds of 21-1. In that race, his first as a 4-year-old, Leloup took a narrow lead into deep stretch, and though beaten at the wire proved he belongs with this group. A lightly raced horse with just seven career starts, he could well be coming into his own. C.J. McMahon has the return engagement.

One reason owner William Clifton and trainer Bill Leach sent Premeditation to Turf Paradise was because they had another horse for this race. Five-year-old High Commissioner makes his second start for Leach, following a sixth-place finish in the Maxam Gold Cup. Previously, High Commissioner had held his own in allowance company on the New York circuit. Mike Clark will ride.

Sneaker Mike is a 4-year-old gelding by Williamstown making his second start since returning from a layoff. Last summer, Sneaker Mike won both the Albuquerque and Ruidoso Thoroughbred derbies. In his return on Jan. 28, Sneaker Mike finished third at 6 1/2 furlongs in a race won by Reflecting Colors, a top local sprinter. The race should set him up nicely for the longer distances he excels at. Manuel Ortiz has the mount for trainer Joel Marr.