12/17/2004 12:00AM

Wildcat Shoes may be long gone


NEW ORLEANS - Mountain General, who owns the track record at six furlongs, and Wildcat Shoes, who lost the Thanksgiving Day Handicap by a nose in his last start, meet again Sunday at Fair Grounds in an optional claiming race at six furlongs.

, winner of the Sugar Bowl Handicap last year at Fair Grounds, ran a winning race in the Thanksgiving, but just got caught on the wire by the fast-closing Ole Rebel.

"We were disappointed he got beat," said trainer William Fires, who trains the 3-year-old Wildcat Shoes for owner Patricia B. Blass, "but there were some pretty good horses in there that finished behind him so we were happy with that."

Fires surveyed Sunday's field looking for the speed and realized that Wildcat Shoes may be making the pace by himself. Premium Saltine, who finished sixth in the Thanksgiving, and Premier Performer may argue the pace, and multiple stakes winner Kool Humor has shown speed, but Wildcat Shoes appears to be faster than all of them. Wildcat Shoes, however, must break from post 9 in the nine-horse field.

"He doesn't have to be on the lead," said Fires, "but he needs to be up there close. Our horse likes to sit just off the pace. I don't like the outside post, though. I would rather be closer in there, drawn in the middle somewhere or down on the inside."

, a 6-year-old gelding trained by Steve Asmussen for his father, Keith Asmussen, set the six-furlong track record of 1:08.03 on November 28, 2002 by winning the Thanksgiving. He was fifth in this year's running, but was beaten less than two lengths.

Mountain General has slowed down a bit from his prime, but has the experience to be a factor in the race.

The rest of the runners in the field all have solid credentials. is a one-run type who will have to work out a rail trip. Big Bold Sweep is coming off an even second in the $100,000 Lightning Jet Handicap at Hawthorne. Crowned King is cutting back in distance off a pair of turf routes. Smooth as Silver is a useful allowance type who usually pulls down a check.

The race appears to be a great spot for Wildcat Shoes to resume his winning ways. Ole Rebel and Beau's Town, who finished in a three-way photo finish with Wildcat Shoes on Thanksgiving Day, are sitting this one out. And Wildcat Shoes is the horse for the course, with a win and a second in two starts at Fair Grounds.