01/22/2004 1:00AM

Wildcat Shoes just too fast for rivals


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - There are just two questions surrounding Wildcat Shoes in Saturday's $50,000 Mountain Valley Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Can he duplicate his last start? And does he need to in order to win the six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds?

Wildcat Shoes has won his last three starts and should be a strong favorite in the Mountain Valley on the heels of his spectacular win last out in the $60,000 Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds. He covered six furlongs in 1:09.60, earning a 103 Beyer Speed Figure.

That number is at least 19 points higher than the last-race Beyer of his five rivals in the Mountain Valley, and it was one of the highest given to a 2-year-old in 2003.

So the question now is, can he duplicate that kind of an effort?

"I think there's a big possibility of him doing it," said Jinks Fires, who trains Wildcat Shoes for Patricia Blass.

Fires said Wildcat Shoes is a smart, laid-back kind of horse who has thrived since his last start Dec. 28. He worked four furlongs in a bullet 46.60 seconds Jan. 21, and although the blowout was quicker than Fires was looking for, Fires believes the ease with which it was achieved indicates Wildcat Shoes could run back to his Sugar Bowl form.

The second fastest work at the distance that day was 49 seconds.

The Mountain Valley, as a race for sprinters, does not consistently produce serious candidates for the two-turn stakes later in the Oaklawn meet, but Wildcat Shoes might be an exception. Fires will test his distance ability in the $100,000 Southwest on Feb. 28, which is one of two route stakes leading up to the $1 million Arkansas Derby.

For now, though, Fires said he is just focused on improving Wildcat Shoes's record to 4 for 5 on Saturday. Wildcat Shoes's three wins have come by a combined 11 1/2 lengths.

"He's a talented horse," said Fires. "We hope he continues to progress right along."

Terry Thompson will ride Wildcat Shoes.

The main threats to Wildcat Shoes appear to be Pro Prado, who was fourth to The Cliff's Edge last out in the Grade 3 Iroquois; End of an Era, an improving colt for trainer John Servis; and the undefeated Hawkish, who ships in from Oklahoma for trainer Joan Charlton.

Pro Prado found himself a little farther back than usual in his last start, when he stumbled and was bumped during the Iroquois. John McKee has the mount for Mrs. James Winn and trainer Bob Holthus.