09/29/2004 11:00PM

Two fillies, two paths, same destination

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Benoit & Associates
Sweet Catomine's first victory came in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Sweet Catomine scored her maiden win in a Grade 1 stakes, the Del Mar Debutante on Aug. 28. Splendid Blended won her debut by five lengths in a one-mile maiden race at Del Mar on Sept. 6.

The two fillies may have scored their first wins in different kinds of races, but they are on the same path this fall. are top contenders in a nine-horse field for Saturday's $200,000 Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita. The Grade 2 Oak Leaf, run at 1 1/16 miles, is a prep to the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30.

Despite having made only one start, Splendid Blended may go favored.

Trained by Neil Drysdale for owner-breeder Peter Vegso, the Unbridled's Song filly was no secret in her debut, going off as the 8-5 favorite in a field of nine. Splendid Blended led throughout that race, but Drysdale said she is not committed to that style.

"She's worked from behind horses," Drysdale said. "She wound up on the front that day."

Drysdale has his eye on the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

"If she runs well, we'll think about it," he said.

Sweet Catomine has been pointed for the Juvenile Fillies since she won the Debutante. After a slow start in that race, she rallied from last to win by three-quarters of a length over Souvenir Gift. Trainer Julio Canani has schooled Sweet Catomine at the gate to avoid another slow start.

"She's doing things much easier than when she won the race in Del Mar," Canani said. "She didn't break in the Debutante. If you school them too much, they get nervous."

Sweet Catomine is a large filly, and Canani is not concerned about her trying 1 1/16 miles. The Debutante was seven furlongs. In her first start, Sweet Catomine rallied from fourth to finish second in a maiden race at 5 1/2 furlongs.

"Little by little, she picks up things," Canani said. "So far, we want to go to the Breeders' Cup. I think she'll rate. It surprised me when she ran second going 5 1/2 furlongs. She's huge. She looks like a 4-year-old."

Those two will dominate the betting in a field that also includes Fearless Flyer, a turf stakes winner at Woodbine last month, and Hello Lucky, who was third in the Sorrento and Debutante Stakes at Del Mar.

made her North American debut in the Grade 3 Natalma Stakes at Woodbine on Sept. 12, rallying from 10th to win the one-mile turf race by 1 1/2 lengths. In Ireland, she won a maiden race by 13 lengths, but was seventh in a minor stakes.

The Oak Leaf Stakes marks her dirt debut, and is a gamble, trainer Ben Cecil said.

"The dirt is a question," he said. "We can work on it and train on it, but we don't know. She definitely gets a mile."

The field

Oak Leaf Stakes
Purse: $200,000; 1 1/16 miles; Grade 2

PPHORSEJOCKEYODDS
1Hello LuckyM. Smith9-2
2Seeking the HeatM. Pedroza15-1
3Splendid BlendedK. Desormeaux4-1
4Culture ClashK. John20-1
5No Bull BabyR. Douglas8-1
6NinadivinaP. Atkinson8-1
7MemoretteT. Baze12-1
8Fearless FlyerD. Flores15-1
9Sweet CatomineC. Nakatani6-5

* Odds by Michael Hammersly