11/20/2004 12:00AM

Wildcat Heir takes De Francis

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Wildcat Heir (right), with Stewart Eliott riding, stays a neck in front of Midas Eyes to win the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Pimlico on Saturday.

BALTIMORE - Trainer Ben Perkins Jr. was so confident in Wildcat Heir heading into Saturday's $300,000 at Pimlico that an eighth of a mile into the six-furlong race he said, "This race is over."

One furlong into the Grade 1 De Francis, Wildcat Heir was sitting third off dueling leaders Shake You Down and Philadelphia Jim. Five furlongs later, Wildcat Heir was in front, holding off favored Midas Eyes by a neck to win the Grade 1 sprint.

It was 1 1/2 lengths back to Clock Stopper in third. Gators N Bears, Philadelphia Jim, A Huevo, Abbondanza, Champali, True Direction, and Shake You Down completed the order of finish.

Stewart Elliott rode Wildcat Heir, giving him another big day at Pimlico. In May, Elliott won the Preakness aboard Smarty Jones, and in October he captured the $200,000 Maryland Million Classic and two other stakes. Saturday, he also won the $100,000 Selima Stakes.

Perkins felt a victory of this magnitude was a long time coming for Wildcat Heir, whose only prior stakes win came in the Icecapade Stakes at Monmouth Park in September. When Wildcat Heir was a 2-year-old, he twice outworked Cajun Beat - whom Perkins trained that year. While Wildcat Heir suffered from hind leg injuries at 2 and 3, Cajun Beat won the Breeders' Cup Sprint last year.

"When he's laid up on the farm and that other horse is winning the Breeders' Cup obviously I'm sick,'' said Perkins, who trains Wildcat Heir for Ebby Novak's New Farm. "I'm glad he got a chance to show himself."

Wildcat Heir, a son of Forest Wildcat, had finished in a dead-heat for fourth in last month's Grade 3 Phoenix Breeders' Cup at Keeneland. But Perkins said Wildcat Heir broke poorly that day, rushed up, made the lead turning for home, and never switched leads.

Saturday, Wildcat Heir broke sharply from post 8 and sat third while Philadelphia Jim and Shake You Down dueled through a half-mile in 45.42 seconds. Wildcat Heir made the lead turning for home, spurted away when Elliott got him to switch leads at the eighth pole, and held off Midas Eyes, who had to swing extremely wide under Edgar Prado turning for home. Wildcat Heir ran six furlongs in 1:09.45 and paid $34.

"We were confident being on the outside," Perkins said. "He had everybody inside of him, you know they're going to stop, he's going to be able to clear them quickly, and then you hope you hang on."

Prado said he was hoping to find a spot to move Midas Eyes inside, but no opening ever developed.

"I had to come around," Prado said. "I thought I had a chance to beat him, but the other horse fought real hard."