05/26/2004 11:00PM

Tour of the Cat heads Ponche


MIAMI - Tour of the Cat is a 6-year-old multiple-graded-stakes winner who has already been halfway around the world this year to compete in the Dubai Golden Shaheen. Weigelia is a lightly raced 3-year-old who could not win his maiden at Calder under a $25,000 claiming tag at 2.

About all the two horses have in common is that they are both entered in Saturday's $75,000 Ponche Handicap and are both using the race as preps for Calder's rich Summit of Speed program on July 10.

Tour of the Cat will be favored to add the six-furlong Ponche to his long list of accomplishments. His r?sum? includes Grade 3 victories here a year ago in the Miami Mile and Spend a Buck handicaps and more recently a win in an allowance/optional claimer in his first start for trainer Manny Wayar.

Tour of the Cat is using the Ponche as a stepping-stone to the Grade 3, $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap, and Wayar believes Tour of the Cat is close to his best following the long trip to Dubai.

"He was maybe 80 percent for his last race, so I was both pleased and a little surprised at how well he ran," said Wayar. "He's not quite 100 percent yet but he's getting closer."

Tour of the Cat will carry highweight of 123 pounds in the Ponche, conceding his competition from seven to 12 pounds.

"Carrying that kind of weight is always a concern," said Wayar.

Weigelia, being the only 3-year-old in the Ponche, will be the recipient of the 12-pound concession and the swing in weight could help the steadily improving colt spring the upset over his more accomplished rival.

Weigelia is coming off easily the best effort of his career, a three-quarter-length victory over the speedy Classy Migration in the Western Borders Stakes on May 9. Weigelia rallied from just off the pace to register his second straight stakes victory, his final time of 1:09.64 for six furlongs earning him a 104 Beyer Speed Figure.

Trained by Manny Azpurua, Weigelia is using the Ponche as a prep for the $300,000 Carry Back Stakes, a race restricted to 3-year-olds, on July 10.

Built Up, who has always done his best running from an outside post, drew the outside for the Ponche and appears to be rounding back to his best form after several dull showings earlier this season.

Bernard's Candy, like Weigelia, is coming off his career-best performance when earning a 102 Beyer for a 1 1/2-length victory against third-level optional claiming and allowance rivals on May 2. He figures to contest the early pace along with Scrubs and Royal Lad.