02/03/2005 12:00AM

Wildcat Shoes looking for trouble-free race

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Clean trip, please. That's what the connections of Wildcat Shoes want Saturday, when the colt takes on a talented group in the $50,000 King Cotton, including Mountain General, trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Roman Chapa, the team that has swept the first three stakes of the meet at Oaklawn.

was third in a six-furlong allowance at Fair Grounds in his last start Dec. 19, when he dueled through fractions of 21.60 seconds for the opening quarter and 44.80 seconds for the half-mile. But the pace is not the entire story behind his demanding race.

"There was a horse in there that kept bumping him, that just kept going out into him," said Jinks Fires, who trains Wildcat Shoes for Patricia Blass. "And every time he would bump us, [Wildcat Shoes] would rebreak. So it just kept us running all the way."

Before the allowance, Wildcat Shoes was second by a nose in the $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap at Fair Grounds. Wildcat Shoes has worked well for the King Cotton, a six-furlong race, and he could get a stalking trip behind the quick Deputy Storm. He used the same tactics to win the $100,000 Lost Code Breeders' Cup at Hawthorne last April.

"He doesn't have to be on the front end," said Fires. "In fact, I prefer him just off."

Terry Thompson has the mount on Wildcat Shoes, a 4-year-old by Forest Wildcat.

Trainer Bob Holthus, who won the first three stakes of this meet a year ago, will be shooting for his sixth King Cotton win, and he has two starters: Pro Prado, third-place finisher in last year's Grade 2 Arkansas Derby, and Level Playingfield, winner of the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Sprint in September.

Others in the six-furlong King Cotton, which drew eight, are Deputy Storm, runner-up to Limehouse in last year's Grade 2 Hutcheson; That Tat, who is trained by Cole Norman; Engineered; and Day Trader.

Mountain General was sixth in the same race Wildcat Shoes exits. For the King Cotton he shows some nice works, including a bullet four furlongs in 48.80 seconds Feb. 2. He invades from Fair Grounds and is the highest earner in the field with a bankroll of $660,015.

Asmussen and Chapa have teamed to win the Dixieland, the American Beauty, and the Dixie Belle this meet.