11/20/2008 12:00AM

Yate's Black Cat doubly appealing


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The most likely winner of Saturday's River City Handicap at Churchill Downs is obvious - it's Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile winner Thorn Song. Less obvious is whether he is worth a wager at a short price.

Thorn Song is 6-5 on the morning line in the field of 11, and could drop even lower. And although the competition is certainly easier than what he has faced in recent starts - such as when he ran ninth behind Goldikova in the Breeders' Cup Mile - I'm not convinced his opponents are as soft as a quick glance at the past performances might suggest.

At the very least, the front-running Thorn Song figures to be entertained early by former claimer Canela, who just won a 1 1/8-mile allowance over this course in 1:47.92.

My play - on the basis of price - is Thorn Song's uncoupled stablemate, Yate's Black Cat. He sits at 5-1 on the morning line, and could prove dangerous over a course on which he has scored 4 of his 5 victories.

Most recently, racing on the Keeneland grass course, he rallied from 10 lengths back to finish second, beaten a neck by graded winner Ballast, in a money allowance Oct. 22. That performance earned him a Beyer Speed Figure of 95.

In all likelihood, a Beyer Figure in the mid 90s won't be good enough to win the River City. But a Beyer in the upper 90s - something he is capable of doing - could put him in contention if Thorn Song does not show up with his "A" race.

Beyond his past performance appeal, Yate's Black Cat is attractive from the angle of being the higher price of two uncoupled stablemates. Although these horses win less often than their more heavily backed counterparts, they outperform expectations enough to warrant support.

Trainer Dale Romans - the trainer of these two stablemates - has already won with one such longer-priced uncoupled runner this meet - that being Melo, who at 20-1 outran stablemate Charco, at 9-2, in a maiden race Nov. 13.

When a trainer runs two horses in the same race, they have good reason for doing so. Usually it's because both horses fit well, or perhaps their styles complement one another.

That applies to Thorn Song and Yate's Black Cat. Thorn Song is a front-runner, and Yate's Black Cat rallies from well off the pace.

Bet on Sunshine

$1.8 million earner Kelly's Landing takes on the unbeaten Euroears in the Bet on Sunshine overnight handicap a race earlier on the Churchill card. With Kelly's Landing at 7-5 odds on the morning line, and Euroears at 2-1, the race might appear to be a two-horse race.

I see potential vulnerability in the two favorites, however, leading me to support Native Ruler, an 8-1 shot on the morning line.

A winner of 5 of 6 dirt starts this year - albeit against easier - he benefits from catching Euroears off a layoff of over 8 1/2 months, and Kelly's Landing off a perfect front-running trip at Keeneland that could leave him vulnerable to regression with more pace in the Bet on Sunshine.

Native Ruler, a stalker, should get a nice trip, and has the advantage of a start over the track this meet.

Pontalba Stakes

Not having raced on dirt, C Karma could be discounted by the public in Saturday's Pontalba Stakes at Fair Grounds. Judging from what she has accomplished to date, that could prove a mistake.

An Exchange Rate filly owned, bred, and trained by Pamela Edel, C Karma has won going as short as five furlongs on Polytrack and going a mile on soft turf in the Grade 3 Natalma.

Even her last race, an eighth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, was deceptively good. She chased the pace in third before tiring.

Considering she was too close to a hot early pace established by eventual third-place finisher, Laragh, her late fade can be forgiven.

Whether or not C Karma can handle dirt is unknown, but she is favorably drawn on the outside in post 9. From this position, jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. should be able to keep her in the clear, away from the kickback that discourages many turf horses trying the dirt for the first time.

If she stays close to her 9-2 morning line price, I'm willing to overlook her lack of experience on dirt and play her to win the Pontalba.