10/27/2004 11:00PM

Sweet Catomine a two-turn natural

Sweet Catomine put her huge stride to good use in the Grade 2 Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita (above), her first race going two turns.

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Julio Canani's success in the Breeders' Cup has been limited to the grass. That may be about to change.

Canani will send out just his third dirt runner in the Breeders' Cup when he saddles Sweet Catomine in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies. If she runs to her looks - or is able to duplicate her last race - she will be awfully tough to beat.

Sweet Catomine will face 12 challengers in the Juvenile Fillies, including five horses who finished two lengths apart in the Gradeo2 Alcibiades three weeks ago at Keeneland. New York-based Balletto, winner of the Grade 1 Frizette, also ranks as a top challenger in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Sweet Catomine is a large-framed filly who is bigger than Canani's 3-year-old colt Blackdoun, a contender in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Mile. Sweet Catomine's size makes her a natural for two-turn route races, something she confirmed when she romped to a four-length victory in the Grade 2 Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita in her last start. Still, she was talented enough to win the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante - a seven-furlong race - as a maiden in just her second start.

"You could see a change was coming," said Canani, who has twice won the Breeders' Cup Mile. "After the Debutante she was a different filly mentally. She grew up - there was a huge change in her."

Canani likes the fact that his filly drew post 10, because she will be less likely to get dirt kicked in her face. Canani doesn't like the position of being favored, however.

"It doesn't matter how good you are, you still have to have a lot of luck, but she's doing great mentally, and physically she's sound," Canani said. "She's a great filly."

Corey Nakatani, who has ridden Juvenile Fillies contenders Balletto and Sharp Lisa, stays with Sweet Catomine.

Options abound for those looking to play against Sweet Catomine. Sense of Style has been favored in all four of her career starts and has won three, including the Grade 2 Spinaway and Grade 1 Matron.

Sense of Style finished fifth as the 3-5 favorite in the Grade 2 Alcibiades, but she encountered traffic trouble in the race. Her trainer, Patrick Biancone, believes the race at least served as a good educational experience for the filly.

"If she's the best, she's going to win," Biancone said. "She's in good form. Everything looks great."

Runway Model was 17-1 when she upset the Alcibiades. Trainer Bernard Flint said he had been longing to run the filly two turns and believes she can be a factor again on Saturday.

"I think she'll run well," Flint said. "The filly's done everything I've asked of her."

Balletto became the first horse bred in the United Arab Emirates to win a Grade 1 race when she took the Frizette three weeks ago at Belmont Park. She is 3 for 4, her only loss coming by one length to Sense of Style in the Matron.

A strong workout Tuesday at Belmont Park instilled tremendous confidence in Tom Albertrani, who trains Balletto. She will break from the rail under Jerry Bailey.

"We're confident because she's training so well coming into the race," Albertrani said. "I'm confident she's going to run as well as she's been running."

There is usually a lively pace in the Juvenile Fillies. On paper, however, this year's edition seems to be lacking in that department. Sis City looms the main speed and though her trainer, Richard Dutrow Jr., said he would have preferred to skip the race, he ultimately shipped her down here. John Velazquez, who has won two of the last four runnings of the Juvenile Fillies, has the call.

Dance Away Capote has run very well in both of her starts around two turns. She won the Irish Sonnet Stakes by 12 lengths at Delaware Park before finishing a close fourth in the Alcibiades after making a wide move on the turn. The only concern is that this will be her third race in five weeks.

Sharp Lisa nearly upset the Alcibiades at 11-1 in her first try around two turns. It was also her first start for trainer Doug O'Neill, who has enjoyed a banner year in Southern California. Frankie Dettori rides from post 12.

In the Gold was a nose behind Sharp Lisa in the Alcibiades. Culinary is 2 for 2, with a victory over Runway Model in the Arlington-Washington Lassie. Higher World won the Mazarine at Woodbine on the front end. Mona Lisa, Culture Clash, and Play With Fire complete the field.

The field

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies
Purse: $1 million; 1 1/16 miles; Grade 1

1BallettoJ. Bailey6-1
2Higher WorldP. Husbands30-1
3In the GoldJ. Castellano12-1
4Runway ModelR. Bejarano10-1
5CulinaryC. Marquez Jr.10-1
6Dance Away CapoteR. Dominguez15-1
7Sis CityJ. Velazquez15-1
8Mona Lisa J. Spencer20-1
9Sense of StyleE. Prado4-1
10Sweet CatomineC. Nakatani5-2
11Culture ClashK. John50-1
12Sharp LisaL. Dettori10-1
13Play With FireP. Day20-1

* All starters carry 119 pounds
* Odds by Mike Watchmaker