02/01/2007 1:00AM

Swale field full of up-and-comers

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - On a card that features two Breeders' Cup winners and one of the leading contenders for the Kentucky Derby, the Grade 2, $150,000 Swale Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park might get overlooked. But that would be a mistake, because there are several late-developing 3-year-olds in the 6 1/2-furlong race, including a promising colt trained by a two-time Derby winner, and another colt who is starting to justify the $1.5 million paid for him a year ago.

Forefathers, who comes off a pair of wins at Calder, might turn out to be this year's best Derby prospect for trainer Nick Zito, who has won the Derby twice. Forefathers completed his serious training for the Swale with a five-furlong drill in 58.60 seconds last Saturday at Palm Meadows that had rival trainers giving a rare nod of appreciation.

"Really, who?" a delighted Zito said. "He's an exciting horse. He worked real well. He was super."

Forefathers, a son of Gone West, made one start in Great Britain in August before being repatriated. At Calder, he defeated maidens, then won a first-level allowance race, both at six furlongs.

"Since we've had him, he's shown ability right off the bat," Zito said.

Zito said he chose the Swale instead of the one-mile Holy Bull more because of the level of competition than the distance.

"The Holy Bull would be asking too much," Zito said. "Those horses, like Nobiz Like Shobiz, have had more seasoning."

Cowtown Cat, purchased for $1.5 million as a 2-year-old last year, has won twice in his last three starts, most recently in a first-level allowance at Gulfstream. He will be trained by Todd Pletcher when Pletcher returns next week from a suspension, but for now is racing in the name of assistant Anthony Sciametta.

Like many of Pletcher's top horses, Cowtown Cat has been at Palm Beach Downs training center in recent weeks. Sciametta said that Cowtown Cat's pedigree - by Distorted Humor out of a Storm Cat mare - made a graded race like the Swale more appealing than a race like Oaklawn's Southwest, which is ungraded. Also, highly regarded stablemate Scat Daddy was slotted for the Holy Bull.

Adore the Gold, who won three times in four starts last year, makes his first start in two months. As with Forefathers and Cowtown Cat, his best style might be to sit just off the pace.

"I gave him some time off after his last race," trainer Mike Gorham said. "This seemed like a good step. For the first time back, I think the Holy Bull would have been too competitive a race."

The ones to catch in the seven-horse field are Storm Trust, a fast maiden winner at Aqueduct in his lone start, and Reata's Rocket, who won twice in three starts last summer at Monmouth.