09/02/2004 11:00PM

Thistledown: Fierce Cat heavy favorite

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NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - Fierce Cat, second in the Cleveland Kindergarten Stakes in her last race Aug. 15, should go off as the odds-on choice over four other Ohio-bred 2-year-olds in Sunday's $40,000 Loyalty Stakes.

Fierce Cat dueled for the lead all the way in the Kindergarten and was beaten less than one length. He has a win and a second from five starts. Trained by William J. Napier, Fierce Cat will be ridden by Scott Spieth. All starters will carry 117 pounds in the six-furlong race.

Brooks Blach was fourth in the Kindergarten, beaten four lengths, and before that was beaten a neck in the Hoover Stakes at River Downs. He is still a maiden, having finished second in his only other start, but he looks like the main opposition to Fierce Cat. Luis Antonio Gonzalez will ride for trainer Jeffrey Thornbury.

Smacker may be the upset horse. His lone start was in the Kindergarten, in which he set the pace for almost a half before tiring to be fifth, beaten five lengths. If Smacker improves off that race, he is capable of wiring this field. Huber Villa-Gomez is the rider.