04/04/2003 1:00AM

White Cat gives owner rare stakes win


LEXINGTON, Ky. - White Cat, ridden by Shane Sellers, edged past Deep Shadow in the final furlong of the Transylvania Stakes Friday to post a head victory, giving owner Ray Cottrell Sr. his first stakes win at Keeneland.

Hypnotist set a fast pace in the $100,000 Transylvania, highlight of the opening program of the 15-day Keeneland spring meet. But turning into the stretch, he was passed by Deep Shadow, who then was challenged and passed in the final yards by White Cat.

"If [White Cat] had been my target, maybe it would have been the other way around," said Kent Desormeaux, who rode Deep Shadow for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. "My horse rerallied, but the outside horse had all the momentum."

White Cat, trained by Ken McPeek, returned $9 as second choice in a field of nine 3-year-olds. The winner finished one mile in 1:34.98 over firm turf.

Cottrell, a car dealer in Brandenburg, Ky., is a longtime supporter of Kentucky racing. He has led the owner standings at Churchill Downs, Ellis Park, and Turfway Park. But his stable typically has been characterized by cheaper stock, and winning a race such as the Transylvania has been beyond the capability of his best horses.

Ontrack attendance was 12,441. Handle from all sources was $7,702,193, with $1,263,880 bet on track.

Weather conditions were windy and cloudy but dry, with a high temperature of about 70.

Asmussen, Heiligbrodt strike again

Last spring at Keeneland, trainer Steve Asmussen unveiled a terrific-looking 2-year-old for owner Bill Heiligbrodt. The colt's name was Posse, and he went on to win the Kentucky Breeders' Cup Stakes two starts later.

Friday, Asmussen and Heiligbrodt turned another fast 2-year-old loose in the third race: Palpen ($18.40), who won the first race of the year in Kentucky for 2-year-olds. After attending the early pace in the 4 1/2-furlong race, Palpen, ridden by Lonnie Meche, rallied

up the rail to defeat favored Hasslefree by 1 3/4 lengths.

Palpen, by Pentelicus, most likely will run back in the Three Chimneys Juvenile on the Kentucky Derby undercard May 3. Posse was third at odds-on in the same race last year.

Borel opens meet with upset

Calvin Borel has ridden at the Keeneland fall meet for the last eight years or so, but this is his first full spring meet. Borel normally is riding at this time of year at Oaklawn Park, but after moving his tack this winter to Fair Grounds, the logical move was to come to Keeneland.

Borel wasted little time making a mark. Riding Career Best from the inside post in the first race, Borel saved ground the entire trip, urging his mount to a 13-1 upset.

- More than a few bettors were caught off-guard by the new Keeneland policy that shuts off betting for each race after the first horse enters the gate. There were no public-address announcements reminding patrons about the new policy as the horses approached the gate before each race, so fans had to be on their toes.

- Veteran trainer Carlos Paez enjoyed a memorable trip to Kentucky from his East Coast base. Paez sent out a pair of romping winners on the opening-day card: Firecard ($9.20) in the second, and Outathechute ($9.40) in the sixth.

- Jaramar Rain ($10.60) got a perfect stalking trip under Pat Day before rallying to win a $65,000 allowance route over a fast main track. Jaramar Rain, a 4-year-old filly by Thunder Gulch, is owned by G. Watts Humphrey Jr. and trained by Rusty Arnold. Chamrousse, the 7-5 favorite, had no apparent excuse after setting most of the pace and fading to third.