03/13/2003 12:00AM

Miss Lodi sharp for Victoria Lass


NEW ORLEANS - The best horses in Saturday's $100,000 Victoria Lass Handicap at Fair Grounds have no current form at all, but they have plenty of morning workouts, and Miss Lodi's will make you blink.

"She's always been a good work horse," said Miss Lodi's trainer, Tom Amoss.

No kidding. Miss Lodi has cracked a minute in two recent five-furlong works, and you will not see anyone breeze faster at Fair Grounds than Miss Lodi did Feb. 24, when she sped five furlongs in 58.60 seconds.

Miss Lodi hasn't raced since Oct. 9, but that's a recent race compared with Lake Lady and Charmed Gift, two other potentially formidable horses returning from breaks here. Lake Lady's last start came April 12, when she was second in the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn. Charmed Gift has been off since July, when she finished fourth in the Iowa Oaks.

The trio faces five others in the six-furlong Victoria Lass, including the 118-pound highweight, Fuse It, who already has raced four times this year and has won her last two starts. Fuse It beat Stonington - who returns in Saturday's race - Feb. 8 in the Pan Zareta Handicap, but scored an even more impressive victory March 1 in the Magnolia Handicap at Delta Downs.

But Miss Lodi is the likely favorite and the horse to beat in her 4-year-old debut. Miss Lodi started seven times last year and won four races, including the Grade 3 Safely Kept Handicap in September at Pimlico.

Her season concluded with a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Raven Run at Keeneland, where she lost to Sightseek, currently the fifth-ranked older female in Daily Racing Form's Watchmaker Watch, which tracks division leaders.

"There's no question of her quality," Amoss said. "We know she's a crack sprinter."

Indeed, Miss Lodi is 3 for 3 at six furlongs, having won those starts by a combined margin of 20 lengths.

Lake Lady, trained last year by Steve Asmussen, makes her first start for trainer Bret Calhoun, who has put Lake Lady through a series of long-distance workouts to prepare her for a stakes start in her comeback race. Lake Lady spent last spring in route stakes races, finishing second in the Fair Grounds Oaks and the Fantasy, but two turns has always been a stretch for Lake Lady.

She returns Saturday to a more natural distance. Lake Lady's long break from racing started with an injury, and how she returns following an extended break remains to be seen.

Charmed Gift may want more distance than she will get in the Victoria Lass, but is a filly with some quality, having placed in several graded stakes races last year.

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