Churchill Downs Notes: Cat Thief Breezes Toward BC Classic

From Churchill Downs
Could Cat Thief be cooking up another November surprise?

Overbrook Farm's son of Storm Cat is winless since his upset victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic (GI) last fall at Gulfstream Park and his most recent race was a listless performance in the Kentucky Cup Classic (GII) at Turfway Park. But Cat Thief turned in a solid five furlong work Thursday at Churchill Downs that had Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas wondering if his 4-year-old colt is gearing up for another big effort in the 2000 Classic on November 4 at Churchill Downs.

Cat Thief breezed the distance in 1:02 1/5 over a "fast" track.

"He was outstanding," said Lukas. "I was really pleased. It's probably as good as I've seen him work. He's coming around at the right time. If we pull that (the Classic) off again it'll be something."

Lukas said there is an explanation for Cat Thief's poor performance at Turfway Park and that's another reason for his optimism as the colt trains toward another date in the Classic.

"He displaced his soft palate and it compromised his chances greatly," he said. "But we've been able to correct that now and we feel really good about it."

A Cat Thief on top of his game would be a horse that merits considerable respect in the 1 1/4-mile Classic. Not only did he win the race a year ago, his other races at Churchill Downs have been strong -- including a third-place finish in the 1998 Breeders'Cup Juvenile (GI), a third-place finish in the 1999 Kentucky Derby, and a third-place finish on a sloppy track in this year's running of the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap.

"I feel pretty good," said Lukas. "You're never confident that you're going to win the Classic, but we're going to be a factor."

Lukas was also smiling over the comeback effort by Overbrook's 3-year-old filly Surfside, who finished second to Darling My Darling Wednesday in Keeneland's $70,000 Raven Run Stakes. The Seattle Slew filly was caught near the wire after surviving a withering pace duel with the favored Roxelana, who faded to fourth in the seven furlong race. The two battled through fractions of :21.58 and 43.44 and the stalking Darling My Darling swooped in to pick off the top prize at the finish.

"We got everything but the win," Lukas said. "That's not our style to go out their and blow- and-go like that."

The Raven Run was Surfside's first race since a disappointing fifth place finish against males in the Santa Anita Derby (GII) in April. She underwent surgery a short time later to remove small bone chips from each of her front ankles. Lukas said Surfside's comeback effort will set her up nicely for a run in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff (GI), which will be run at 1 1/8-miles.

"We got enough out of it to put us where we want to be," he said. "I think sometimes a seven- eighths race is almost better than a two-turn race to get ready for one."

Lukas said the brave effort by the regally-bred daughter of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew out of Flanders, winner of the 1994 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) at Churchill Downs, stamps her as a major contender for her debut against older fillies and mares in the Distaff.

"She's definitely going to be one now," he said. "I feel like we're in good shape."

Roxelana Still On Track For Churchill Downs Distaff -- The comeback effort by Roxelana in Keeneland's Raven Run may have disappointed some fans who watched her finish a tiring fourth as the even-money favorite, but trainer William "Blackie" Huffman was not among them.

William Landes' III's winner of the La Troienne (GIII) faltered in the stretch after dueling with Surfside through blistering early fractions. But Huffman was pleased with Roxelana's effort in her first race since a third-place finish in the Acorn (GI) at Belmont Park in early June.

"We had a good trip and no excuses," said Huffman. "It was just a suicide pace. We just got beat."

Huffman said Roxelana came out of the Raven Run race in good shape and will likely be pointed toward the $200,000-added Churchill Downs Distaff (GII), a one-turn mile race on the Breeders' Cup undercard on Nov. 4. She may get a rematch with Darling My Darling in that one.

"The fractions were just fast and she couldn't sustain those kind of fractions for seven- eighths of a mile," Huffman said. "The winner ran a beautiful race and you've just got to give her all of the credit in the world."

Huffman gave Roxelana a summer break after the Acorn, which was the first defeat of her career. He saw nothing in the loss in her comeback race to diminish his confidence in his filly's ability.

"I've got no complaints," said Huffman. "It's over, she's got a race and I look for her to move forward off of it."

Work Tab (Track: FAST) -- On A Soapbox, winner of the 1999 Coaching Club American Oaks (GI), breezed five furlongs in 1:01 2/5...Kentucky Cup Ladies Turf winner Silken breezed four furlongs in :50 4/5.