03/20/2003 1:00AM

Filly no secret to bettors


The chalkplayers are apparently in love with Undercover.

A 4-year-old filly trained by Anthony Dutrow, Undercover has been the favorite at 8-5 or less in eight of her last nine starts. She figures to be a short price again versus just four opponents in Saturday's $75,000 Gala Lil Stakes at Laurel Park.

More often than not, Undercover has justified her backers' heavy support. She has won five times as the public choice, including her last two starts in New York and at Laurel and last fall's Maryland Million Oaks at Pimlico.

It's worth noting, however, that the last two times Undercover ran against stakes company, in the Twixt and the Grade 3 Anne Arundel, she finished no better than fourth. Both of those losses came at 1 1/8 miles, the same distance as the Gala Lil. In fairness, Undercover encountered trouble in the Twixt, where she had to check at the five-sixteenths pole after bumping with another horse.

"Her form speaks for itself. She is a consistent filly who runs her race every time," said Mario Pino, who will ride Undercover, the 4-5 morning line favorite. "The short field hinders us a little bit, but Singing Sword has a lot of speed and we should have an honest pace. She won the Maryland Million easily, and we were in a perfect spot in the Twixt when Darnestown clobbered her on the turn."

Bettors searching for a viable alternative to Undercover have limited choices. The most accomplished filly in the short field is Shop Till You Drop, who has been placed in three graded races, including the Anne Arundel, in which she finished nearly four lengths ahead of Undercover.

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