06/24/2007 11:00PM

Familiar routine for Spruce Fir fave

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - All signs point to I'mtoogoodtobetrue Wednesday in the $60,000 Spruce Fir Handicap for New Jersey-bred fillies and mares at Monmouth Park.

The 5-year-old mare is following a familiar pattern: come back in a sprint in her season debut and stretch out in her second start in the Spruce Fir at one mile and 70 yards.

It worked last year, and there's no reason to think it won't work again.

"That's what we're hoping," trainer Ned Allard said. "She's doing super. As time goes by, it looks like she is turning into a much better router than a sprinter. I think with the best of the Jersey-breds, sprinting is out of the question right now."

The record backs up Allard's opinion. I'mtoogoodtobetrue ran five times last year with three wins - all in New Jersey-bred stakes ranging from one mile to 1 1/16 miles. She had one third in two sprints.

I'mtoogoodtobetrue was not a factor last time out in the six-furlong Open Mind Stakes, finishing sixth. A winner of more than $340,000, she faces five rivals in the stakes, originally scheduled for Sunday.

"She's doing super and I expect her to run very well," Allard said.

As usual, Joe Bravo will be aboard.

I'mtoogoodtobetrue carries top weight of 123 pounds. Jersey Gia, the Open Mind winner last month, is next at 117. The remainder of the field - I Dare Billy, Jenny Bean Girl, Murphy Style, and She's a Tuff Cookie - tote 115 or 116.

Lopez rebounds on Gottcha Gold

Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. and Centaur Farm, the owners of Gottcha Gold, contemplated a jockey change after the colt set a suicidal pace in Monmouth's Frisk Me Now Stakes on May 28. After considering the alternatives, they opted to stick with Chuckie Lopez. The decision paid off handsomely Saturday as Lopez masterfully guided Gottcha Gold to the front-running upset over 1-10 favorite Lawyer Ron in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile.

"Chuckie is known to be an excellent speed rider and, in the previous race, we drew an outside post," Plesa said. "Chuckie asked him to come away from there and the horse just took off with him. The difference in the fractions between this race and the prior race were pretty significant."

In the Frisk Me Now, Gottcha Gold clicked off half-mile and three-quarter fractions of 44.08 seconds and 1:08.76, opening up a clear lead before weakening in the lane to finish second to Indy Wind.

In the Salvator, the comparable times were 45.43 seconds and 1:09.39.

"Chuckie learned from that experience," Plesa said. "We drew a favorable post position [2] and we talked about whether we should leave Chuckie on or not. I just figured he couldn't mess up twice in a row."

Lopez reserved just enough energy with Gottcha Gold to hold off Lawyer Ron and give Gottcha Gold his first graded stakes victory.

"We were at the right place at the right time at the right racetrack," Plesa said. "It's one of those rare times in horse racing that you come up with a plan and it really works. The graded stakes helps the owner, who has the whole family. This was something we were planning on. It was very satisfying."

Plesa said Gottcha Gold came out of the race in good shape and the next start is uncertain. Longer range, the first running of the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Monmouth on Oct. 26 could be an objective.

"He seems to like the Jersey Shore," Plesa said. "The Breeders' Cup race is a ways off. It would be nice to be able to participate in it, but he's going to have to prove to us that he belongs."

Cable Boy moves closer to Haskell

With each succeeding win, Cable Boy increasingly looks like he belongs in Monmouth's $1 million Haskell Invitational for 3-year-olds on Aug. 5.

The unbeaten colt won his third straight, all at Monmouth this meet, when he tackled stakes company for the first time and demolished four rivals Sunday in the Coronado's Quest Stakes.

Now it's on to the next step: Monmouth's $150,000 Long Branch Breeders' Cup Stakes on July 14, the track's traditional Haskell prep.

"He erased most of my anxiety," said trainer John Forbes, who has turned over day-to-day operation of the stable to Pat McBurney.