08/14/2001 11:00PM

Real Cozzy needs breakthrough victory

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - She was good enough to finish second to Flute in the Kentucky Oaks and good enough to finish second to Fleet Renee in the Mother Goose. But if Real Cozzy is to have any say in year-end honors in the 3-year-old filly division, she must find a way to win a Grade 1 race.

Trainer Dan Peitz hopes that breakthrough comes in Saturday's $750,000 Alabama at Saratoga.

Initially built up as a showdown between Flute and Mother Goose winner Fleet Renee, the Alabama's complexion changed Wednesday when trainer Michael Dickinson pulled Fleet Renee out of consideration because of a slight injury. Now, there is just one giant to slay.

Real Cozzy, a daughter of Cozzene out of Mining My Business, scored an early-season surprise when she won the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks at 9-1. It was her third win in as many starts. But she bombed in her next start, finishing ninth in the Grade 2 Fantasy at Oaklawn, a race from which Real Cozzy emerged with a back injury.

Thanks to some acupuncture, Real Cozzy bounced back with three solid efforts in Grade 1 stakes, finishing second in the Kentucky Oaks, third in the Acorn, and second in the Mother Goose. The only time she met Flute, Real Cozzy finished second, beaten 2 3/4 lengths, in the Kentucky Oaks. "Basically, we were just second-best," Peitz said.

The one-turn races at Belmont may not have played to Real Cozzy's late-running style. Peitz believes the two turns and 10 furlongs of the Alabama may help Real Cozzy turn the tables on Flute.

Peitz also points out how much better Real Cozzy has done since arriving in Saratoga. She shows three bullet works over the Oklahoma training track coming into the Alabama.

"I think we're probably doing better now," Peitz said. "Maybe the distance, maybe the fact we've had a freshening coming in, I think there are a lot of positives that could help us turn it around. I hope we get a track that's not one those Saratoga speed-bias racetracks, and I just hope the pace is honest."

Peitz said training over the Oklahoma training track has done wonders for Real Cozzy, who has not shown any signs of back trouble.

"Physically, she's doing great," Peitz said. "I'll be confident she's going to run a big race, it's just whether we're good enough or not."

Peitz knows the importance of the Alabama if he holds out any hope of Real Cozzy being in contention for an Eclipse Award entering the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Belmont.

"We need to win one," Peitz said. "This is the one. Obviously, we have to win to put ourselves in position to think about it. This is the race we pointed to, she's trained great up to it, now she's got to go out and get it done."

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