10/26/2007 12:00AM

Yes It's a Cat holds on in Pinjara

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - Yes It's a Cat held off a late threat from Sky Cape to win the $81,200 Pinjara Stakes at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting on Friday. But the one-mile distance of the turf race may be on the outside of Yes It's a Cat's range, trainer Jeff Mullins said.

Yes It's a Cat ($10.40) was timed in 1:36.70, winning by a neck after leading by two lengths in the stretch. Sky Cape finished three-quarters of a length in front of Dixie Mon in the field of seven 2-year-olds.

Yes It's a Cat set a slow pace of 23.80 and 47.80 seconds, fighting off an early challenge from Trickster Nickster, who faded and was pulled up in the stretch, leaving Yes It's a Cat clear in the backstretch.

Yes It's a Cat was making his turf debut and his fifth start. Owned by a partnership that includes Mullins, Yes It's a Cat was eighth in the Gradeo1 Norfolk Stakes on Sept. 30. Mullins said, "We got a little aggressive and jumped the gun" starting Yes It's a Cat in the Norfolk.

"I think he'll go as far as you want around one turn," Mullins said. "He's such a free-running horse. I'm glad to get a stakes win."

O'Neill expects Lava Man to rebound

Lava Man, winner of the Santa Anita Handicap and Hollywood Gold Cup this year, will be a heavy favorite in Saturday's $250,000 California Cup Classic, but trainer Doug O'Neill admits that bettors have a right to be skeptical of the 6-year-old gelding's form.

Since winning the Gold Cup in June, Lava Man has finished sixth in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar Aug. 19 and sixth in the Oak Tree Mile on turf on Oct. 7.

O'Neill thinks Lava Man did not handle the Del Mar Polytrack's surface and that he didn't like racing on the inside in the Oak Tree Mile.

"I think in the last two races, he had legit excuses," O'Neill said.

Lava Man was scheduled to work this weekend, O'Neill said. Compared to his previous starts, Lava Man will face a much easier field in the Cal Cup Classic, which is run over 1 1/8 miles for statebreds. His competition is expected to include Add Heat, Cheroot, Joy's Comet, and Rush with Thunder

"We expect him to bounce back," O'Neill said. "He can answer the question of whether he's getting a little long in the tooth."

The California Cup program features eight races worth $100,000 or more on a program that draws one of the largest crowds of the year to Santa Anita.

Bilo targets California Cup Sprint

Bilo, unraced since winning the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park in July, is likely to start in the $150,000 California Cup Sprint, trainer Marty Jones said. Bilo's participation hinges on how he works at Hollywood Park on Sunday or Monday.

"Right now, we're leaning toward running," Jones said. "I'd like to see him have a real positive work."

Bilo battled a foot problem during the Del Mar meeting, which kept him from starting in the Grade 1 Pat O'Brien Handicap. Jones did not elaborate on the injury, but did say that the problem is no longer a factor.

Owned by Ed Nahem, Bilo, 7, has won 6 of 14 starts and $434,036. He was eighth in the 2006 California Cup Sprint.

Casinos closed due to wildfires

Two Native American casinos in San Diego County have been closed for simulcasting this week because of the wildfires in that region, and it was unclear Friday when they would reopen.

Viejas Casino in Alpine, east of downtown San Diego, and Barona Casino, northeast of downtown San Diego, have been affected by the fires, according to Tom Varela, general manager of Southern California Off-Track Wagering Inc.

Varela said that Viejas was open briefly Wednesday, but later closed "due to power concerns and fire concerns."

Viejas was not scheduled to be open for the Breeders' Cup program on Saturday, but may reopen for simulcasting Sunday, Varela said. It was unclear whether Barona would be open Saturday for the Breeders' Cup program, Varela said Friday.

Fires have raged in areas near both simulcast locations.

Another simulcast location, the Surfside Race Place, adjacent to the Del Mar racetrack, remained open this week.

Varela said it was unclear how much mutuel handle was lost because of the absence of Viejas and Barona from the off-track satellite system.

"I'm sure we'll pick up some [business] at Surfside, but we'll be impacted a little bit," he said.

Gomez returns to California

Garrett Gomez, who entered the weekend as the nation's leading rider in purse earnings this year, returns to California on a full-time basis for Sunday's card.

Gomez has four mounts on the 10-race program. His lineup is led by Spring House in the $100,000 Carleton Burke Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf. Trained by Julio Canani, Spring House finished third in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap over 1 3/8 miles on turf on Aug. 26.

Gomez last rode extensively in California at the 2006-07 winter-spring meeting at Santa Anita, finishing in a tie for first with Victor Espinoza despite missing the last two weeks of the meeting to ride at Keeneland.