06/21/2001 12:00AM

Fussy filly is truly a homebody


ELMONT, N.Y. - It may look to you like just another stall in just another barn at Philadelphia Park, but it is home to Jostle, and it means a great deal to her.

When she can leave her home in early morning and van to a track no more than several hours away, ensuring that she will be home again that same day, Jostle will give her best, and her best is pretty good. She came here last summer on a one-day excursion and won the classic Coaching Club American Oaks, a Grade 1 feature, by more than three lengths. She was a day-tripper to Saratoga in August to score with authority in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes, But last fall, after her outstanding record earned her consideration for divisional honors, she shipped to Churchill Downs 10 days in advance of the Breeders' Cup Distaff and it was a disaster. In a field of nine she finished last, never in the hunt at any time.

"If you didn't know her well, it would have been difficult to tell anything was wrong," trainer John Servis said. "Coming off the track in the morning, she would act up; buck and kick and that sort of thing. People commented that she was training super and had a lot of energy but that's not her. Usually, she is very professional coming off the track. She is also a good doer. She always cleans up her feed tub, but there were times in Kentucky when she left part of her dinner, as if she was uneasy."

In retrospect, Servis feels he probably should have gone home. The Breeders' Cup has come to mean so much, though. He felt that if she ran well, victory wouldn't be essential to nail down the 3-year-old filly championship. She hardly raised a gallop.

Freshened for several months, Jostle matured physically and trained with enthusiasm. Perhaps there were other reasons for her form in Louisville. She deserved another chance, and shipped to Arkansas for the Oaklawn Breeders' Cup, a Grade 3 race. Jostle should have handled the assignment comfortably. Instead, she stopped in the upper stretch, even before the furlong pole in a 1 1/16-mile race.

To prove a point, Jostle was sent to Aqueduct for the Bed o' Roses on a go-and-return basis and ran an excellent race, beaten less than a length despite stumbling at the start . On Preakness Day she paid a brief visit to Pimlico and was even sharper, beaten a neck and was possibly the best horse.

Saturday, about 4 a.m., Jostle will board a van at her Philadelphia Park home for the trip to New York and her engagement, later that day, in the $250,000 Hempstead Handicap, a Grade 1 race for fillies and mares at

1 1/16 miles. It usually takes a very good filly to win the Hempstead: a Serena's Song, a Sky Beauty, a Personal Ensign, The quality level is high this weekend with such good fillies as Beautiful Pleasure, Darling My Darling, Apple of Kent, and Critical Eye . . . and Jostle, a 4-year-old daughter of Brocco who has earned $1.3 million for Wilmington, Del., auto dealer Richard Porter.

"I want everyone to see the real Jostle," Servis says. "She is a brilliant filly, has been training better than ever, and we've got Jerry Bailey to ride her. . . .She has her ways but we understand her now and we've drawn up a schedule for the season that takes the situation into account. The Breeders' Cup will be in New York, that's a plus for us. Now the rest is up to her."