03/13/2005 12:00AM

Sweet Catomine victorious in Santa Anita Oaks

Sweet Catomine wins the Grade 1, $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks on Sunday by 3 lengths.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Bring on the boys.

That was the rallying cry at Santa Anita on Sunday, after the champion filly Sweet Catomine earned a berth in the April 9 Santa Anita Derby by virtue of an overpowering victory in the Grade 1, $300,000 .

A crowd that braved a dreary, drizzly afternoon saw Sweet Catomine swoop the field while four paths wide on the far turn and roll home three lengths in front of runner-up Memorette, who was five lengths clear of She Sings. Charming Colleen, Feel The Heat, Cream Donut Keith, and Guaranteed Victory completed the order of finish.

Sweet Catomine ($2.40) was timed in 1:44.44 for 1 1/16 miles over a track that was rated fast, but had been dulled by the day-long drizzle. A total of $394,530 of the $442,317 show pool was bet on her, leading to a minus show pool.

The only anxious moment came once the race was over, when Tyler Baze, who rode Cream Donut Keith, lodged a foul claim against Sweet Catomine and jockey Corey Nakatani, alleging they had taken her path at the three-furlong pole. But the stewards dismissed the claim.

Sweet Catomine was sixth of seven the first part of the race as Guaranteed Victory led through fractions of 23.50 seconds for the opening quarter and 48.50 seconds for a half-mile. The pace had slowed so noticeably by the six-furlong mark that Nakatani maneuvered Sweet Catomine to the middle of the track and then turned her loose.

In an instant, Sweet Catomine roared up to engage the leaders, and then she was gone.

"She's the best filly I've even ridden," Nakatani said.

Sweet Catomine, last year's Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old filly, has now won five consecutive races after finishing second in her debut. Both Marty Wygod, who owns Sweet Catomine with his wife, Pam, and trainer Julio Canani said the Santa Anita Derby would be next.

"To run in the Kentucky Derby, you have to prove that she belongs. The Santa Anita Derby is what we want to do next," Wygod said. "In our opinion, she's the horse to beat."

Canani was equally bullish. He watched the race alone, in the grandstand by the sixteenth pole, and became animated as he walked toward the winner's circle.

"Listen to me, I didn't even train her for this, because I didn't want her to peak," Canani said. "She'll be 8-5 in the Santa Anita Derby."

* Trainer Doug O'Neill had no luck with Cream Donut Keith, but he got a consolation prize earlier in the day when the 4-year-old colt Skipaslew re-rallied to capture the $79,850 Santana Mile for older horses. Skipaslew ($11.60), owned by Merv Griffin, was winless since last year's Golden Gate Derby. He crossed the wire sixth in the Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds in his previous start. Kent Desormeaux rode Skipaslew, who was timed in 1:36.93.