06/27/2001 11:00PM

Graffeo beneficiary of doctor's advice


ELMONT, N.Y. - Achievement is the operational word when it comes to Saturday's $250,000 Mother Goose Stakes, a Grade 1 race for 3-year-old fillies at nine furlongs.

Fleet Renee, the probable favorite, won the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland this spring. Forest Secrets won the Acorn Mile here. Tap Dance won the Bonnie Miss at Gulfstream and Real Cozzy won the Fair Grounds Oaks in New Orleans. Mystic Lady beat the colts in Monmouth Park's Jersey Derby and Zonk captured the Revidere Stakes at that same track.

Two Item Limit has won four stakes, two last season when she was learning how to run and two this year when she indicated she absorbed the lessons. The Twining filly, owned by Joseph Graffeo of Boca Raton, Fla., was purchased at the Ocala Breeders' sale for $50,000. Those four stakes tallies, plus a couple of seconds when she had no racing luck, translate into earnings of just under $500,000.

She should be saluted as one of the leaders of her division, but recognition has come slowly. Trainer Stephen DiMauro hopes that situation will change after the Mother Goose, which has attracted the strongest field of 3-year-old fillies this year

"She's been a good filly from the start," DiMauro said. "She is short-coupled and well-developed, as if she might be full of speed, but she has consistently shown she prefers a distance of ground. She won the nine-furlong Demoiselle at Aqueduct last fall by seven lengths and Pimlico's Black-Eyed Susan at the same distance last month by more than four lengths. Our main goal of the summer is the Alabama Stakes going a mile and a quarter at Saratoga."

The acquisition of Two Item Limit came about in unusual fashion. Graffeo, a keen racing fan who grew up near Belmont Park, raced a small stable of claimers in 1980 with trainer Dominic Galluscio. Graffeo was just starting his Graftec Electronics, a semiconductor firm, and didn't have time to devote to the horses. He returned to racing about five years ago, but with a different approach. He began assembling 2-year-olds, most of them sales horses, with a few homebreds. The sales colts and fillies were all in the price range of $20,000 to $60,000.

"A lot of nice horses have come out of this range," he said. "You're more flexible in your planning as well. Dealing with six-figure horses affects your thinking."

When it came to buying Two Item Limit, however, there was a twist to the story. Graffeo has a nephew living in south Florida who has been troubled with chronic asthma. The nephew sought help from a distinguished specialist in the field, Dr. Jose Birriel of Ft. Lauderdale.

Dr. Birriel is another keen racing fan and occasional breeder. Graffeo was racing a nice grass horse named Monkey Puzzle at the time, and when Birriel heard Graffeo's name, he inquired if this was the racing family. They chatted by phone and one day Dr. Birriel advised that he had just received a call from a friend who recommended an Illinois-bred fillly who was being sold at the OBS sale. Dr. Birriel said he does not buy to race but suggested Graffeo look into it.

The doctor's diagnosis was right on target and Two Item Limit, nicely in line with Graffeo's pricing parameters, went home with him. She has been a source of joy ever since and may be ready to enhance the legend in the Mother Goose.