01/29/2007 12:00AM

A True Pussycat back in comfy spot


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - While his more accomplished older females spent the first part of the winter in Southern California, trainer Tom Bush appeared to have added depth to his barn with the acquisition of A True Pussycat.

In her first start for Bush, A True Pussycat won the Get Lucky, an overnight stakes at Aqueduct on Jan. 4. Wednesday, A True Pussycat finds herself in a similar spot when she meets five rivals in the $65,000 Lady on the Run Stakes at a mile and 70 yards over the inner track.

There is a pick six carryover of $42,498 entering Wednesday's card, though the Lady on the Run, as the third race, is not part of the sequence. The pick six is on races 4 thru 9.

In the Get Lucky, A True Pussycat made a strong move from the middle of the far turn to upper stretch, but then appeared to weaken late. However, Bush said that A True Pussycat seemed to resent being whipped by jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr.

"One thing we learned is the filly absolutely loathed the stick, does not want to be hit with the stick," said Bush, who trains the top New York-bred stakes-winning mares Finlandia and Rahys' Appeal. "We're going to do our best not to use it and just go to a vigorous hand ride or maybe a slap on the shoulder."

A True Pussycat, who has to carry 123 pounds but breaks from the advantageous rail, will likely be stalking Samsincharge, who can get brave when allowed free reign on the lead, which is something she could get in here. She broke sideways when meeting tougher in the six-furlong Interborough. She is 3 for 6 over the inner track, with two of the wins around two turns.

The horse to beat may be Daytime Promise, who, by jockey Ramon Dominguez's own admission, received an "awful ride" from him in a third-level allowance race on Jan. 11. Daytime Promise, who won the Busanda last January, has dropped her last eight starts, five of them at odds of 9-5 or shorter. Dominguez will be Daytime Promise on Wednesday from post 6.

Johannesburg Star gets rider switch

When the 3-year-old Johannesburg Star makes his next start in the $65,000 Whirlaway Stakes on Feb. 10 he will have a new rider on his back. Trainer Joe Parker said Rajiv Maragh will replace Chuck Lopez, who rode Johannesburg Star to his only victory as well as a second-place finish in the Count Fleet Stakes.

Maragh rode Johannesburg Star to a second-place finish in an Oct. 25 maiden race at Belmont.

"Nothing personally against Chuckie, we just don't want to get in a position where we're going to be floated out wide and have to make up ground and get beat 1 1/4 lengths," Parker said, referring to Johannesburg Star's trip and margin of defeat in the Count Fleet. "We could sit chilly in the pack, or if we could take the lead and go on we could do that, too. It depends how the race develops."

Maragh, who rides regularly in south Florida, flew to New York, where on Monday he guided Johannesburg Star through a five-furlong workout timed in 1:00.86 over Aqueduct's inner track. Aqueduct clockers caught Johannesburg Star in fractions of 12.24 seconds, 24.36, 36.61, 48.59, and timed him galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.94.

"Super," Parker said. "Look at the elements: it was high winds, the track was deep. I wanted to see him stay a steady course. I asked him for a little bit more, I got it. He showed me he's strong enough to keep going."

Johannesburg Star is only 1 for 6 in his career, but in that one win - a 9 1/2-length maiden score over the inner track on Dec. 9 - he earned a gaudy 102 Beyer Speed Figure.

Sports Town gaining focus

Sports Town, also pointing to the Whirlaway, worked six furlongs in 1:12.17 Monday morning at Belmont Park. He worked in company with Speedjama, who was used as a target for the fast-finishing Sports Town and who was credited with a five-furlong time of 1:00.66.

"He went great, he did it very easy," said John Terranova, trainer of Sports Town. "That was probably our last big work going into that race and that was what we were looking for."

After finishing third in his debut, Sports Town has won two straight races, both at six furlongs. While blessed with physical talent, Sports Town has lagged in his mental development. However, Terranova said he has seen positive developments in that regard.

"He's a lot more focused as far as what we do with him on the racetrack," Terranova said. "Around the barn he's still a big bully, but that's great to see that attitude. As far as the way we breeze and how he's working, he's always been impressive, but you can tell he's getting so much stronger with the natural course of time. Mental development, that's going to come in his races in the afternoon."

The Whirlaway, at 1 1/16 miles, will be Sports Town's first start around two turns.

Carminooch swings out and gets up

A determined Carminooch, under Mike Luzzi, needed virtually every inch of the 1 1/4 miles of Sunday's $65,950 Proud Appeal Stakes to get up for a head victory over Successful Affair at Aqueduct.

Dominguez, the rider of Successful Affair, did his best to keep Carminooch bottled up in the stretch, but inside the eighth pole, Luzzi was able to swing Carminooch to the outside and he had enough time to run down Successful Affair, who seemed on his way to his fifth consecutive victory.

The victory was the sixth from 17 career starts for Carminooch, whose owners, Three Amigos Stable, are associates of actor Tony Sirico, who portrays Paulie Walnuts on the hit television show "The Sopranos." Successful Affair is owned by Winning Move Stable, whose proprietor, Stephen Sigler, is the father of actress Jamie Lynn Sigler, who portrays Meadow Soprano on the same show.

Carminooch, a New York-bred son of Tomorrows Cat, ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:03.87 over a fast inner track and returned $5.70 as the favorite. Assistant trainer Seth Benzel saddled Carminooch for Todd Pletcher, who remains under suspension. Benzel also won Saturday's Paumonok Handicap with Bishop Court Hill.

* Bill Place, winner of the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes on Jan. 15, worked five furlongs in 1:00.49 at Aqueduct on Monday. He is pointing to the Fred "Cappy" Capossela Stakes here on Feb. 19.