08/30/2001 11:00PM

Lady Viriginia goes turfing

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Lady Viriginia, who has won four races from eight starts this year, can become a stakes winner in her turf debut Sunday if she can hold off the powerful closing kick of Chausson Poire in the $50,000 Lyrique Handicap at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La. The 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies has also drawn Mountain Kitten, third to Chausson Poire in last month's Chapel Belle, and Caustic Remark, third to older rivals in the Margarita Breeders' Cup at Retama Park.

Lady Virginia indicated on Saturday that she is ready for the Lyrique when she worked six furlongs in a bullet 1:11.40.

Lady Virginia's trainer, Cole Norman, said he expects her to handle the turf and the distance, even though she has lost her only two starts at two turns. "We think she's got a pedigree for turf, and to go long," said Norman.

Norman also plans to change pace tactics with Lady Virginia, who is looking to rebound from a sixth-place finish in the Winning Colors on July 21. "Instead of trying to rate her so much, we're going to let her run her race," said Norman, who has given the mount to Anthony Lovato. "She wants to run freely."

Chausson Poire comes from far back. She steamrolled her foes late in the Chapel Belle, winning by two lengths. "I wouldn't be surprised if she improved a little over that race," said trainer Duane Knipe, who has given the mount to Shane Romero. "She did it pretty easy."