01/16/2005 1:00AM

Sweet Catomine captures Santa Ysabel Stakes

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BENOIT PHOTO
Sweet Catomine and jockey David Flores take the Grade III, $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes on Sunday at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif.-Sweet Catomine launched her 2005 campaign with an easy win in Sunday's $108,000 at Santa Anita, leaving the rankings of the nation's 3-year-old fillies unchanged for the foreseeable future.

The Grade 3 Santa Ysabel marked the fourth consecutive stakes win for Sweet Catomine and her first start since the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last October. She is unbeaten in three starts around two turns.

With only moderate encouragement from jockey David Flores in the stretch, Sweet Catomine ($2.20) drew off in the final furlong to win by 2 1-2 lengths, finishing 1 1-16 miles in 1:43.77.

Pussycat Doll, who was making her stakes debut, engaged Sweet Catomine on the final turn, but could not keep pace. Pussycat Doll held second, finishing fourth lengths in front of On London Time in the field of five.

Flores kept Sweet Catomine in third until the end of the backstretch when they took the lead. Flores said he was helped by the presence of Pussycat Doll.

"I just kind of let her cruise down the lane," Flores said. "I pushed a little bit because she started looking around and getting bored. I just tried to get her to work a little bit. She needed some company. They gave me a little push. I asked her and she opened up."

Owned by Marty and Pam Wygod and trained by Julio Canani, Sweet Catomine has won 4 of 5 starts and $864,600. Her stakes winning streak includes the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante last August and the Grade 2 Oak Leaf Stakes last October.

Canani is convinced that Sweet Catomine will only improve in coming starts.

"I understand these weren't Grade 1 fillies, but she's coming in the right direction," Canani said. "She wasn't 100 percent for this race. I never had her cranked up."