07/09/2005 12:00AM

Surf Cat victorious in Swaps


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The lesson learned by jockey Alex Solis in last month's Affirmed Handicap paid off handsomely on Saturday, when more aggressive handling helped propel Surf Cat to a runaway, five-length victory in the Grade 2, $400,000 for 3-year-olds at Hollywood Park.

Solis was self-critical over his passive ride aboard Surf Cat in the Affirmed, and vowed to use different tactics in the Swaps. From the start, Solis put Surf Cat right into the fray, placing him right behind early leader Dover Dere. A moderate pace benefited those two colts, and hindered the chances of those chasing them. Once Surf Cat powered past Dover Dere with three furlongs remaining, the race was over.

Dover Dere held second, one length in front of third-place Indian Ocean. Don't Get Mad, the 6-5 favorite, finished fifth in the field of six.

Surf Cat ($5.40) has now won three of his last four races after finishing second in his first two starts. The Swaps was his first stakes victory.

"He has such a high cruising speed," Solis said. "Today, I let him run. If he was going to be in front early, that was OK. If he was going to be second, that was OK. I just didn't want to make the same mistake. Everything went according to plan."

Over a track that has favored speed for most of the past two weeks, Dover Dere got away with an easy pace. He set fractions of 23.75 seconds for the opening quarter, 47.35 seconds for a half-mile, and 1:11.34 for six furlongs. Surf Cat was right on his heels. Don't Get Mad, who likes to make one swooping run, had no pace at which to run. He moved up while wide heading toward the far turn, but then lost his punch.

Meanwhile, Surf Cat was moving powerfully. He drew away from his rivals entering the lane, was up by 3 1/2 lengths a furlong out, and crossed the wire in 1:48.07 for 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track.

Surf Cat, by Sir Cat, is trained by Bruce Headley and is owned by Headley's wife, Aase, and Marsha Naify.