09/11/2002 11:00PM

Drop to Ill.-breds to bolster

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Two Item Limit needs a confidence-building race right now, so for the first time in three seasons of racing Two Item Limit will take advantage of her Illinois-bred status. Shipped by van from New York to Arlington in midweek, Two Item Limit faces five statebred opponents on Saturday in the Unique Type, a $42,000 overnight handicap race run at one mile on dirt.

Two Item Limit, the Illinois horse of the year last season, lands in the easiest spot she's found since leaving the allowance ranks, but if she runs to expectations the water could get much, much deeper next time.

"If she were to run a big race on the same track as the Breeders' Cup, it would give us something to go on," said trainer Steve DiMauro.

DiMauro and owner Joseph Graffeo need something to go on, since Two Item Limit, after seeming to come into form in June and July, threw in a clunker in her last start, finishing 25 lengths behind Summer Colony in the Aug. 23 Personal Ensign at Saratoga. At the same time, Two Item Limit raced so well in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff, finishing third by just more than a length, that her connections are searching for a way to get her back to the race.

After improving efforts in the Ogden Phipps and the Delaware Handicap, "I thought she was poised for a big race last time," DiMauro said. "She just didn't run very well. I need to get a race in her that she can win. She needs her confidence back. She's a better cold-weather horse. Maybe that will put a spark in her."

DiMauro is taking nothing for granted Saturday, but in all fairness Two Item Limit should not lose this race even with something less than her best. Two Item Limit went over the $1 million mark in earnings this year and has raced in 19 consecutive graded stakes races. Her rivals, at best, have shown themselves to be listed stakes-type horses.

Lost at Sea's either/or

Lost at Sea, fourth on Saturday in the Grade 1 Gazelle, may be settling in for a fall break from racing. Her co-owner, locally based businessman Peter Abruzzo, was quoted this week as saying Lost at Sea could go to Hoosier Park for the Indiana Oaks, but trainer Jerry Hollendorfer on Thursday said he was considering a period of rest for the 3-year-old filly.

"I don't know what I'll do with her right now," Hollendorfer said. "Maybe we'll want to give her a little break. She ran good in the Grade 1, but the way the competition is so tough for the Breeders' Cup, I don't know if she can handle those kind of horses right now."

Lost at Sea returned to Arlington early this week. Hollendorfer's local assistant, Andy Wilson, said the filly appeared to have traveled well. "She hasn't missed an oat," he said.

* The 55-year-old Earlie Fires, inducted last year into the Hall of Fame, has shown no sign of slowing down this summer at Arlington. With 22 wins from 167 mounts, Fires is having a solid meet, and through Wednesday's racing is tied for 13th in the jockey standings. Wednesday, Fires added to his amazing career win total at Arlington, scoring his 2,700th victory here with the Spanky Broussard-trained Castlewood.

* Broussard said he probably would nominate San Pedro to the $400,000 Washington Park Handicap here, but that San Pedro was more likely to start in an overnight statebred race on Sept. 29 than in the Washington Park the following day. San Pedro, out of action for most of the spring and summer, was an encouraging fourth in a recent sprint comeback race here.