10/17/2002 11:00PM

BC Countdown - F&M Turf: Longshot crackpot Chopinina does it her way

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - With Chopinina, racing itself is just a fractional part of the fun.

A moderate allowance horse at age 3, Chopinina vaulted out of obscurity last month, leading to deep stretch before finishing second to Breeders' Cup Mile hopeful Good Journey in the Grade 1 Atto Mile. A 55-1 outsider that day, Chopinina will assume longshot status again next week in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

And if you saw this filly train, you would be inclined to make her about 1,000-1.

"She's not a conventional horse in any way or form," said Alec Fehr, who took over Chopinina's training for Steve Stavros's Knob Hill Stable this year.

"She refuses to gallop whatsoever," Fehr said. "All of a sudden, she'll decide she's had enough. She'll back herself up to the outer rail and just stand there."

How do you train a horse that won't train? Fehr began probing Chopinina's chaotic psyche, finding out what she would accept as morning routine. The answer was very little. Sometimes Chopinina seemed to respond positively when she trained in the company of other horses, but even then her personality flared.

"She'd pick and choose her workmates," Fehr said. "She'd get tired of some horses, just stop and say, 'I'm not going with them anymore.' "

Then Nymphenburg came along. A talented dirt filly trained by Fehr, Nymphenburg did things Chopinina hadn't seen before. When Fehr partnered the horses, Nymphenburg pinned her ears and tried to intimidate Chopinina, even lashing out with her hooves. Chopinina was fascinated. Fehr started working the pair in company, and wonder of wonders, Chopinina would breeze without acting up.

"She could never beat Nymphenburg on dirt," Fehr said. "She'd chase her around out there, and that's how I finally got her fit."

Lately, Chopinina has fallen in love with Fehr's stable pony, whom she follows around the track when she's not breezing. "Between works, I can let her be the queen and do what she wants," Fehr said. "Sometimes we end up just walking around for two miles."

In the end, the quirks are superfluous: What Chopinina really wants to do is race. When Chopinina sees her racing bridle "she goes wild," Fehr said. "She loves the racing game, and thank God for that."

Fehr can't risk taking Chopinina away from her routine very far in advance of her race, so she will arrive at Arlington from Woodbine not much more than 24 hours before she races. Since they led through fast fractions in the Atto Mile, Chopinina and jockey Emile Ramsammy almost certainly will set the pace in the Filly and Mare Turf. There's an extra quarter-mile to account for this time, but Fehr has focused on teaching his charge to conserve her energy.

"If she gets the right trip and the right fractions she can get the mile and a quarter," he said. "She's a gutsy horse and she's tough to get past."

Once you get her going.

Irresistible Jewel won't go

Trainer Dermot Weld withdrew the 3-year-old Irish-based filly Irresistible Jewel from the Filly and Mare turf. In her absence, the Filly and Mare Turf field stands at 13, but others still may pass. Gossamer has the Mile as first preference; Riskaverse may not recover from her last race in time to start; and Banks Hill and Voodoo Dancer are subject to scratch if the course comes up soft.

The field as of Friday, with riders: Banks Hill (Jerry Bailey); Chopinina (Ramsammy); Dublino (Kent Desormeaux); Golden Apples (Pat Valenzuela); Gossamer (no rider); Islington (no rider); Kazzia (Jorge Chavez); Owsley (Edgar Prado); Riskaverse (no rider); Starine (John Velazquez); Turtle Bow (no rider); Voodoo Dancer (no rider); and Zenda (Richard Hughes).