02/12/2004 12:00AM

Josie G. looks like people's choice


NEW ORLEANS - When the owner Greg England and trainer Bret Calhoun privately purchased Josie G. last fall, they were hoping to come up with a useful allowance-class horse. What they have is the likely favorite for Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes at Fair Grounds.

herself is a major part of the equation. She won an entry-level allowance in her first start after the purchase, and returned with a strong second-place finish to the talented Lotta Kim in the $100,000 Tiffany Lass Stakes. But the other factor is the strength of the opposition Saturday. Upgraded from Grade 3 to Grade 2 status last season, this year's Silverbulletday suffers from several key defections. Seven 3-year-old fillies were entered in the 1 1/16-mile dirt race, and to many bettors, Josie G. will look like the best of them.

Some horsemen developed late interest in the Silverbulletday when the field began looking light. was shipped here from Payson Park on Wednesday, while trainer Tom Amoss popped the speedy Movant into the field. Also entered were Love Power, Sister Swank, and He Loves Me - third, fourth, and sixth in the Tiffany Lass - and Shadow Cast, a solid allowance winner in her last start.

Calhoun said he encouraged Josie G.'s $60,000 purchase because of the filly's third-place finish in a Keeneland allowance race last October.

"It looked on the figures like she wanted to go farther," Calhoun said.

Calhoun wasn't deterred by modest reports about Josie G.'s physical characteristics. "She was described to me as small and unimpressive," Calhoun said. "They told me she vetted clean, and I told them to send her down here."

Calhoun said Josie G. enters the Silverbulletday in good form. There is rain in the forecast, and Josie G. has positive wet-track experience. The tactical route speed Josie G. possesses can be harnessed. The filly has developed one poor habit: She has briefly lost focus late in both of her Fair Grounds starts, but Calhoun feels with a clean stalking trip, Josie G. can maintain her momentum.

Neither Shadow Cast nor Quick Temper needs vast improvement to win. Quick Temper, an A.P. Indy filly with only three starts, finished a distant second to the promising Last Song in a Jan. 19 allowance at Gulfstream. Her trainer, Niall O'Callaghan, believes Quick Temper was trapped on the slower part of the racetrack that day, and that she stands to move forward in the Silverbulletday.

"I always thought she had some quality about her," O'Callaghan said. "Is she the caliber of the other fillies in this race? I don't even know."