12/02/2005 1:00AM

Western Hemisphere back on dirt


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - With a prep race behind her and a return to the main track, is ideally placed to win the second stakes of her career in Sunday's $95,000 Cat's Cradle Handicap at Hollywood Park.

That is the opinion of trainer Bob Baffert, who was very confident when entries were drawn Friday.

"She's sitting on a big one," Baffert said.

The 120-pound starting highweight, Western Hemisphere is the likely favorite in the Cat's Cradle, run over 7 1/2 furlongs on dirt for California-bred fillies and mares.

Western Hemisphere has six opponents, including the multiple stakes winner and Soldier's Kiss, who won the Fleet Treat Stakes for statebred 3-year-old fillies in July.

Owned by Golden Eagle Farm, Western Hemisphere, 4, returned from a layoff of more than a year to finish fifth as the favorite in the California Cup Distaff on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita on Nov. 6. She broke slowly and rallied to finish 2 3/4 lengths behind Tempting Date.

"She needed it," Baffert said. "Going down the hill is not her distance. She'll be much more effective on the dirt."

The race was Western Hemisphere's first start since finishing second in the California Cup Distaff in October 2004. Baffert said she was sidelined with "some minor complications."

Last year, Western Hemisphere won the Fleet Treat Stakes at Del Mar, and finished second in two stakes at Hollywood Park.

House of Fortune and Soldier's Kiss are well-placed in the Cat's Cradle.

A graded stakes winner in 2004, House of Fortune, 4, has been second in her last two starts - the Swingtime Stakes on turf and the California Cup Matron. In the Swingtime Stakes, at Santa Anita on Oct. 7, her saddle slipped during the running. She led by as many as 10 lengths but was caught near the finish.

In the California Cup Matron, House of Fortune made a determined rally through the final furlong and finished 1 1/2 lengths behind Dream of Summer.

Trained by Ron McAnally for Arnold Zetcher, House of Fortune is seeking her seventh win in her 21st start. She is winless in eight starts this year.

Soldier's Kiss has won half of her eight starts, all for the partnership of Bud and Judy Johnston and trainer Bruce Headley. She was third in the Pine Tree Lane Stakes in October.

In the Cat's Cradle, Soldier's Kiss will be coupled with Strut Your Stuff, a 4-year-old filly the Johnstons also own.