01/28/2005 12:00AM

Sweet Catomine: Maiden to champ in 2 months


Sweet Catomine's biggest fan is clearly her owner, Marty Wygod.

"When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is think about her," Wygod said. "She's got a brilliance to her that is really unusual."

That brilliance was on display through the late summer and fall last year and led Sweet Catomine to the Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding 2-year-old filly of 2004. It has also led Wygod to consider Sweet Catomine for the Kentucky Derby this year.

is the first champion for Wygod and his wife, Pam. They bred the filly in Kentucky, sending the Kris S. mare Sweet Life to Storm Cat.

Sweet Catomine won three stakes in 2004 - the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante in August, the Grade 2 Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita in October, and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30.

The last victory, by 3 3/4 lengths, clinched a title that seemed remote after she won the Del Mar Debutante as a maiden.

In her second start, the Debutante, Sweet Catomine was part of a favored entry with Proposed, but was considered the weaker half. After a troubled start, she rallied from last to win in a slow time - 1:24.18 for seven furlongs.

"It wasn't the wrong horse as far as I was concerned," Wygod said. "She started to show the talent she had."

The evidence was clear in her next two performances. She won the Grade 2 Oak Leaf Stakes over 1 1/16 miles by four lengths Oct. 2, earning further admiration from trainer Julio Canani. Through the late summer and early fall, Canani raved about her improvement, remarking how she was thriving in training.

That two-race winning streak made Sweet Catomine the 2-1 favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Ridden by Corey Nakatani, Sweet Catomine rallied from seventh and overcame trouble on the final turn before pulling away.

The victory was her final start of 2004. She finished the season with 3 wins from 4 starts and earnings of $799,800.

"Her improvement from race to race made it very obvious she had the mark of a champion," Wygod said.

Sweet Catomine is already a stakes winner this year. She won her fourth straight stakes in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes over 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita on Jan. 16. Wygod said she will be pointed for the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks on March 13. A win there would lead to a start against males in the Santa Anita Derby. If she runs well in that race, the Kentucky Derby is not out of the question, Wygod said.