08/14/2007 11:00PM

Any other year, Octave would be on top

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Octave could become just the fifth 3-year-old filly to win the Mother Goose, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Alabama.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - For all the good fortune Jack and Laurie Wolf have had in their relatively brief careers as horse owners, they have the misfortune of having a talented 3-year-old filly born the same year as Rags to Riches.

So while Octave could become just the fifth 3-year-old filly to win the Mother Goose, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Alabama - which is being run Saturday at Saratoga - it is unlikely she could wrest a championship from Rags to Riches, who became the first filly in 102 years to win the Belmont Stakes.

"The fact is she's No. 2 in the division at this point," said Jack Wolf, 59, who races under the name Starlight Stable along with his wife, Laurie. "If we were able to win the Alabama and were able to win the [Breeders' Cup] Distaff and [Rags to Riches] was in there, I think the voters would still vote for Rags to Riches, but I would have to make a case for us. But obviously we haven't accomplished those two things, so at this stage you'd have to say she is the No. 2 filly."

When Octave runs in Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama, she'll seek to join Shuvee, Mom's Command, Open Mind, and Sky Beauty as horses to win the Mother Goose, CCA Oaks, and Alabama. Only Mom's Command (1985) and Open Mind (1989) were voted champions.

Octave, never worse than second in 10 career starts, is another in a growing list of stakes horses that have put the Wolfs in Thoroughbred racing's spotlight since they got into the business in 1999. In less than a decade, the Wolfs have campaigned the champion Ashado, Grade 1 winners Harlan's Holiday and Purge, and the multiple-stakes-winning sprinter Keyed Entry.

Three years ago, Donald and Barbara Lucarelli joined forces with the Wolfs and have been partners on Keyed Entry and Octave as well as Sam P., a 3-year-old who competed in this year's Kentucky Derby.

Now both couples are seeking additional investors to join their venture. This year, the Wolfs and Lucarellis have purchased 12 yearlings at auction. They plan to buy four more this fall.

"We didn't get into the game expecting that kind of success; we're fortunate that it's come," said Lucarelli, a 55-year-old resident of nearby Duanesberg who sold his construction business three years ago. "We're also fortunate to have a personal relationship with not only Jack and Laurie but also [Starlight partner] Paul Saylor. We all really mesh very well. The fact of the matter is we're having fun at it and we're making some money in a game that's very tough to show a profit."

Horses like Octave are a prime example. Octave, a daughter of Unbridled's Song and Belle Nuit, was purchased for $350,000 out of the 2005 Keeneland September yearling sale and has earned more than $1.2 million After winning her debut at Churchill Downs in May 2006, she has competed in nine consecutive stakes. She won the Grade 2 Adirondack here as a 2-year-old and finished second in Grade 1 events such as the Matron, Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Ashland, and Kentucky Oaks, the latter to Rags to Riches.

She finally broke her bridesmaid tag with a half-length score over Lady Joanne in the Mother Goose and a half-length score over Lear's Princess in the Coaching Club American Oaks.

"She's never run a bad race," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "She has been a little bit unlucky a couple of times this year, I think. In the Ashland, one more jump and she gets up. She got bottled up in traffic around the turn, had to go very wide, and the winner snuck through on the inside."

Of her second-place finish in the Fair Grounds Oaks, Pletcher said that Octave "got stuck in some traffic, got rolling late while the winner got the jump-start on her at the top of the stretch."

"Those two races," said Pletcher, referring to the Ashland and Fair Grounds Oaks, "I thought she was arguably the best filly in the race."

Octave, who will be making her third start in seven weeks, is diminutive in size, but demonstrative in desire.

"Rags to Riches towers over her from a standpoint of size," Lucarelli said. "But I've always been one to like an underdog. . . . She emulates that in that she overcomes her size with some of her mental strength and her heart and desire to compete. I really love that about her. I wouldn't trade places with anybody, even Rags to Riches, from that standpoint."

As good as Octave is, she likely will not match the accomplishments of Ashado, who won seven Grade 1 races and earned $3.9 million in a brilliant career. But, she could help erase the memory of the 2004 Alabama, when Ashado finished third as the 3-5 favorite.

"Of course we were disappointed that we didn't win it," Wolf said. "But we also didn't win the Mother Goose and [Octave] won the Mother Goose. Maybe this one will get the Alabama that we didn't get with Ashado."