10/17/2007 11:00PM

Thru n' Thru the one to catch

EmailEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - It has been more than 10 years since trainer Bob Baffert had his only starter at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

Baffert saddled Anet to a second-place finish in the $1 million Pegasus Handicap in 1997.

A decade later, Baffert returns with Thru n' Thru in the $55,000 P. G. Johnson Stakes for 3-year-old filly turf sprinters on Saturday night.

The Johnson tops a nine-race program which will be the last at the Meadowlands until Oct. 31. The Big M will be dark next week as Monmouth Park reopens Wednesday for a four-day meet that includes the Breeders' Cup on Oct. 26 and 27.

Thru n' Thru is the one that 11 others have to catch in the five-furlong Johnson.

Almost out of desperation, Baffert put the speedy filly on the grass this summer to get her off the tiring synthetic Polytrack surface at Del Mar. Thru n' Thru responded with a dazzling front-running allowance score and a career-best 94 Beyer Speed Figure.

"We were forced to run her on the turf," Baffert said. "I knew she would fold up on the Polytrack. We threw her on the turf because we thought she'd have a chance. She just took off like a shot."

Thru n' Thru confirmed her preference for turf in her latest effort, this time at Belmont Park on Oct. 3, when she rolled to another pacesetting win, carrying her speed six furlongs.

Baffert believes the cutback in distance makes the Johnson an excellent spot for Thru n' Thru, who will break from post 3 under Belmont Park's leading rider, Eibar Coa.

"It really doesn't matter where she draws because she'll find herself on the lead," Baffert said. "She's built like a Quarter Horse. She's just so fast. Five furlongs is ideal for her."

Featherbed is one of the rivals who will be trying to reel in Thru n' Thru. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Featherbed makes her turf debut following a sixth-place finish in the Dream Supreme Stakes at Belmont. Chris DeCarlo, Pletcher's main New Jersey rider, gets the call on the filly, who finished in a dead heat for second in a three-way blanket finish in last year's Grade 1 Matron Stakes at Belmont.

Sea the Joy ran well in two grass sprint stakes over the summer at Monmouth, winning the Crank It Up and losing by a neck in the Trenton. Stewart Elliott rides for trainer Steve Asmussen, who is having an exceptional Meadowlands meet with a record of 5-1-1 from only 8 starters.