12/28/2003 12:00AM

Wildcat Shoes sets new mark in Sugar Bowl


NEW ORLEANS - Wildcat Shoes is built like a Quarter Horse, compact with powerful hindquarters, and he comes out of the gate flashing speed. But this colt has smarts, too, and once on the lead, he relaxes. Sunday, he easily conquered six furlongs and seven opponents, winning the $60,000 by five lengths. His time of 1:09.78 shattered the stakes record.

With the way Wildcat Shoes is built, his trainer, Jinks Fires, assumed Wildcat Shoes would be no more than a sprinter, but now he is starting to wonder. Wildcat Shoes shrugged off a pace rival in the Sugar Bowl and won going away, and in a recent six-furlong workout at Oaklawn Park, he galloped out as strongly as he had worked. For now, Wildcat Shoes will stick to sprinting - his next start comes on opening day at Oaklawn - but Fires will consider longer races as his horse's 3-year-old season progresses.

Wildcat Shoes showed little when he debuted last summer at Arlington Park, but he won his maiden Oct. 29 at Churchill, beat allowance horses there a month later, and toyed with his rivals Sunday. Wildcat Shoes had the rail, and Britt's Jules pressed him through an opening quarter-mile in 21.95 seconds, and continued to hound him around the far turn. The half-mile split, 44.64 seconds, was exceptionally quick for this track, but Wildcat Shoes still was comfortable.

"He does it so easily," said jockey Robby Albarado. "I nudged him to get away from that other horse, and he went whoosh. He's very explosive."

Burned out, Britt's Jules tired to third, passed late by Two Down Automatic, but nobody was in the same league as the winner, who paid $6.20 as the favorite.

Favorite upset in Louisiana Futurity

A fast early pace in the colts and geldings division of the $84,965 Louisiana Futurity took its toll on the heavily favored Kim's Gem, who was caught late by Brandon's Marfa, a 17-1 shot in from Delta Downs. Caroline's Prince finished third.