01/07/2005 12:00AM

Sweet Catomine up against history

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Benoit & Associates
Sweet Catomine makes her first post-Breeders' Cup start Sunday in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel.

ARCADIA, Calif. - It will be wet and miserable if runs Sunday, unusual conditions for the return of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner. Her trainer, Julio Canani, can spin it how he wants, but admits, "I wish the rain would go someplace else."

Seven fillies entered the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes, and everyone is asking the same question - will Sweet Catomine run on a wet track?

"Yes, she's going to run," Canani said Friday. "I prefer to find out now if she likes mud or not. She trains good in the mud."

Sweet Catomine has never raced in mud and faces a statistical oddity - she is only the second Juvenile Fillies winner to start in January of her 3-year-old season (Cash Run lost a 2000 sprint). Further, only two of the last 10 winners (Caressing, Silverbulletday) won their next start; losers include five odds-on favorites. Does history make Sweet Catomine vulnerable?

"Listen to me," Canani said. "Don't think too much." And he is right about one thing. If the best filly wins the Santa Ysabel, a 1 1/16-mile race, it will be Sweet Catomine. She won the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante and Grade 2 Oak Leaf Stakes before the Breeders' Cup and faces a field in which no other entrant has placed in a graded stakes.

Marty and Pam Wygod owned and bred both Sweet Catomine and a filly that could give her a battle Sunday. Revealed won her Nov. 21 debut for trainer John Shirreffs and should improve stretching out from 6 1/2 furlongs. If Revealed wins, bettors are protected - she is coupled with Sweet Catomine.

Other entrants include the entry of Island Escape and She Sings, On London Time, Andrea's Wish, and Quiet Honor. There will be scratches if Sweet Catomine runs.

Sweet Catomine was sired by Storm Cat and produced by a stakes-winning turf dam who was sired by Flying Paster, one of California's most prolific off-track stallions. As for mud, Canani said Sweet Catomine "has good feet, no problem. For her size, they're not big."

Sweet Catomine is unusually agile for such a large filly. She won her second start in a sprint and overcame a tough trip to win the Breeders' Cup.

Rain stopped briefly Friday morning, and Canani asked track superintendent Steve Wood about the weekend outlook. Wood's reply: "We're going to get a little break, but it is going to come right back. They are going to be getting into it by Sunday."