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Charles Town-based thoroughbred to race in Breeders' Cup

October 24, 2008|By LARRY YANOS

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Charles Town-based thoroughbred Rouse the Cat has to be one of the greatest rags-to-riches stories at this year's 14-race Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.

The 4-year-old gelding, owned by Ray Pennington III and trained by Ollie Figgins III, was acquired in a claiming race at the Charles Town Races & Slots track for $10,000 in December 2007. The horse progressed so well in the next 10 months that he is competing in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint on Saturday, with Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado aboard.

"We claimed Rouse the Cat because I liked his speed, and his pedigree indicated he might like the turf," Figgins said Monday from the Charles Town stable area. "It was his fourth career start and I really saw some potential there. I appreciate Mr. Pennington's support in making the claim and things have worked out well."

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Owners enter their horses in claims races for a price at which they would be willing to lose the animals. So, for instance, if a claim slip is filed for a horse in a $10,000 claims race - as was the case with Rouse the Cat - the claimant gets the horse for that price when the claim is made public after the race.

Florida-bred Rouse the Cat hasn't disappointed Pennington or Figgins.

The thoroughbred, by Sir Cat - Crouse Mill, has been to the starting gate 11 times in 2008 and shows five wins, two second-place finishes and two third-place finishes.

Overall, he has been to the starting gate 16 times with seven wins, two second-place finishes and three third-place finishes. His career earnings are $273,770.

"He really loves the grass and has been competitive no matter where we race," said Figgins, 34, a graduate of Jefferson High School. "He has faced some tough competition, things won't be any different at Santa Anita. I think the added distance could make a difference."

In two years of racing, the talented thoroughbred has attained some frequent flyer miles and has competed at eight different racetracks in the United States and Canada.

For this race, he was transported to Lexington, Ky., on Tuesday night and took a red-eye flight to Los Angeles.

Figgins and Pennington, of Front Royal, Va., joined the horse at the Santa Anita stable area on Thursday and said they expect a top-notch effort on Saturday in the nationally televised event.

"We breezed him last Saturday at Charles Town, so he'll get a brief work Friday morning and we'll school him in the paddock," Figgins said of the game plan. "He should be ready to go on Saturday."

Figgins said the horse "has been running mostly 5- and 5-1/2 furlong races and has closed. He should really like the added distance of the race. We hope to be well-placed and come on with a closing rush. That's the game plan."

Maryland-based jockey Chris VanHassel has been aboard Rouse the Cat for most of his races, but 2008 Hall of Fame inductee Prado gets the assignment on Saturday.

"Edgar (Prado) and I have been friends for years, he didn't have a mount in the race and said he would ride Rouse the Cat," Figgins said. "We're delighted. He's a very good rider, in fact one of the best."

Prado rode Barbaro to victory in the 132nd Kentucky Derby on May 6, 2006, and was aboard the horse two weeks later during the Preakness Stakes when Barbaro came up with the leg injury that ended his career.

In his last start on Oct. 4, Rouse the Cat finished second - beaten by a nose - in the Grade II 6-furlong $500,000 Nearctic Stakes at the Woodbine Race Course in Toronto, Canada.

Figgins has 30 horses in training. He was a jockey for a short time and his father, Ollie Figgins II, rode horses for a number of years at Charles Town.

"This will be my first Breeders' Cup and I'm looking forward to it," Figgins said. "It should be a great experience."

Even more so if Rouse the Cat can pull the upset in the race of about 6 1/2 furlongs for 3-year-olds-and-up. Rouse the Cat, who was 20-1 on Thursday's line, will break from the No. 7 post position.

The Breeders' Cup World Championship series of races held today and Saturday offers purses worth $25.5 million. In its 24th year, the Breeders' Cup is a year-end championship for thoroughbred racing.

In addition to Rouse the Cat, the competition in the Turf Spring includes Heros Reward (Javier Castellano), Fleeting Spirit (John Murtagh), True to Tradition (Kendrick Carmouche), Only Answer (Olivier Peslier), Salute the Count (Eibar Coa), Storm Treasure (Shaun Bridgmohan), Diabolical (Frankie Dettori), Desert Code (Richard Migliore), California Flag (Joe Talamo), Idiot Proof (Garrett Gomez), One Union (Victor Espinoza), Get Funky (Jose Valdivia Jr.) and Mr. Nightlinger (Jamie Theriot).

To see the race ...



What: Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint

Post time: Saturday, 1:50 p.m.

If you want to watch: Friday, ESPN2, 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, ABC, 1 to 3:30 p.m.; ESPN, 3:30 to 7 p.m.

For more information, go to www.breederscup.com

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