08/05/2008 12:00AM

I Lost My Choo figures a big favorite


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - I Lost My Choo could be one of the shortest-priced favorites of this entire meet when she faces five seemingly overmatched rivals in Thursday's $150,000 Statue of Liberty division of the New York Stallion Stakes at Saratoga.

The Statue of Liberty, run at 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf course, is restricted to 3-year-old filly progeny of New York-based stallions. I Lost My Choo, a daughter of Western Expression, is coming off a 1 1/2-length victory in the Grade 3 Virginia Oaks at Colonial Downs on July 19. Her five turf wins - all this year - are two more than her five opponents combined.

Phil Serpe, who trains I Lost My Choo for owner/breeder Carl Lizza, said this race was on the agenda ever since late winter, when I Lost My Choo reeled off three consecutive victories over Gulfstream Park's turf.

Since then, I Lost My Choo finished third in graded stakes races at Keeneland and Belmont before winning the restricted Elmont Stakes at Belmont and the Virginia Oaks. Serpe said I Lost My Choo got a little off track in the Appalachian at Keeneland, when she found herself too close to the pace.

In the Virginia Oaks, there was a runaway speed horse who opened up a double-digit-length advantage. I Lost My Choo made up 12 lengths in the final furlong to get the victory.

"Her running style is to sit back behind some horses and finish," Serpe said.

Though I Lost My Choo is coming back on just 19 days' rest, Serpe said his filly is ready to run. Edgar Prado rides I Lost My Choo from post 3 under co-high weight of 122 pounds.

"This was a target race for us, and I can assure you whatever happens out there on Thursday that she's ready to go up there," Serpe said. "Mr. Lizza wouldn't make her run; there are three other races here she could run in. She worked great. She galloped like a train this morning or she wouldn't be walking up there."

Western Slang, trained by Leo O'Brien, has won 2 of 5 starts, including a statebred allowance race last time out. Study Abroad, who also carries 122 pounds, won a division of the New York Stallion Stakes on dirt on June 1, but has never raced on turf.

Talbots Shopper, Ommadon's Frenzy, and Raffie's Treasure complete the field.

Forever Together to Woodbine

Forever Together, who won the Grade 1 Diana Stakes here on July 26, will take the Canadian route to the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Trainer Jonathan Sheppard said Forever Together will be pointed to the Grade 2, $300,000 Canadian Handicap on Sept. 7 and then return to Woodbine for the Grade 1, $1 million E.P. Taylor on Oct. 4 before shipping to Santa Anita for the $2 million Filly and Mare Turf on Oct. 24.

Sheppard said he and owner George Strawbridge were initially thinking of running in the Flower Bowl at Belmont on Sept. 27, but they like the timing of the Canadian races better.

"She's not always the easiest to train, and I think if she had a nice run three weeks before the Breeders' Cup then I wouldn't have to do much with her," Sheppard said.

Shortly after the Diana, Sheppard shipped Forever Together to his farm, Ashwell Stable, in West Grove, Pa., for a few weeks. He plans to bring her back to Saratoga in a week or two.

Tony Dutrow enjoying stellar start

Tony Dutrow has gotten off to a sensational start at this meet and hopes to keep it going when he unveils the 2-year-old filly Union City in Thursday's fifth race.

Union City, a daughter of Dixie Union owned and bred by Ed Evans, has been working extremely well at Delaware Park for her unveiling.

"You never know about a first-time starter, but she's a good filly," Dutrow said Tuesday. "If I ran her at Delaware, she'd break, go to the front, and probably win but not learn anything. She's going to get some good experience up here."

From his first 10 starters at the meet, Dutrow has 4 wins, 2 seconds, and 4 thirds. His biggest win of the meet came with Ferocious Fires, who took the John Morrissey Stakes for New York-breds. That victory made him 7 for 7 on dirt. He lost his only start on turf.

"I would say surprised to start 10 horses and all of them run well," Dutrow said. "The biggest word I'd use is overwhelmed, just real happy that they're running so well."

Magna Graduate drills for stakes

Magna Graduate worked five furlongs in 1:03.07 Tuesday morning over Saratoga's Oklahoma training track. Trainer Steve Asmussen said Magna Graduate is under consideration for Saturday's $100,000 Duke of Magenta Stakes here or the $300,000 Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park on Aug. 16.

"I think he worked well, we'll just have to see how he comes out of it, see what the race looks like," Asmussen said regarding the Duke of Magenta.

Also on Tuesday, Asmussen worked his 2-year-olds Lyin' Heart and Simplify in company over the training track. Lyin' Heart was timed in 1:01.69, while Simplify was given a time of 1:01.67. Lyin' Heart, who won his first two starts at Lone Star and finished second in the Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs, is pointing to the Saratoga Special on Aug. 14. Simplify, coming off a third-place finish in the Debutante at Churchill, is pointing to the Adirondack on Aug 13.

Business improves, but remains down

After a dreadful opening week, business improved at Saratoga for the second week, though overall figures are down significantly from last year.

Through two weeks of racing, attendance is off 16.6 percent, while ontrack handle is down 8.8 percent and total all-sources handle declined 8.9 percent compared to 2007 figures. After the first week, which was plagued by extremely wet weather, attendance was down 24.8 percent, ontrack handle down 11.8 percent, and all-sources handle was down 12.6 percent.

Ontrack handle at Saratoga has averaged $2,995,253 this year, compared with $3,283,829 last year. Average daily all-sources handle averaged $14,543,180, compared to $15,963,386 in 2007.

There have been 122 races run this year, compared with 115 in 2007, but total betting interests are down to 990 from 1,035. Thirteen races have been taken off the turf this year, compared with zero over the first two weeks last year.