09/14/2006 12:00AM

Secret Scheme main threat to Victorina


ALBANY, Calif. - All signs point to Victorina winning Saturday's $50,000-added Noe Valley Handicap at Golden Gate Fields.

A 3-year-old filly, Victorina has won two six-figure stakes, including the Grade 3 Azalea at Calder on July 15 in her last start, and placed third in the Grade 3 Dogwood at one mile at Churchill Downs. She has earned $330,378 and never finished off the board in eight starts.

Despite her credentials, she faces a tough challenge in the 1 1/16-mile race, coming off a two-month layoff and running around two turns for the first time in her career.

Lined up against her is Secret Scheme, who won her second start by 10 lengths here and later won at Bay Meadows by 16. She returns north and to the main track after finishing fourth, beaten 1 1/2 lengths, in the Grade 2 San Clemente at Del Mar and fading badly in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks.

Snowdrop and Make a Pass, both stakes-placed, and the improving Logan Avenue Linda round out the field.

For Victorina's trainer, Greg Gilchrist, the race boils down to Victorina's ability to handle two turns and 1 1/16 miles.

Secret Scheme could provide a tougher challenge than the two turns and the distance. Although she won an optional claiming race on the turf here and is coming off two turf races, Secret Scheme should run well on dirt, said her trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer.

"I think she'll do better on the dirt," Hollendorfer said. "We thought she ran decent on the turf in the San Clemente and gave her another chance in the Oaks, but she didn't run well."

Secret Scheme has good speed, although there are other front-runners in the race. Snowdrop set the pace when edged a nose in the six-furlong Swepida at Stockton and Logan Avenue Linda is happiest when she's on the lead.

Gilchrist is fearful Secret Scheme could prove tough to catch on the lead.

"I think Jerry will send his horse - I know I would if the horse were mine," Gilchrist said. "I think we've got his horse to catch, and she's a nice filly. She was beaten just a length and a half in the San Clemente, and that's a Grade 2 race."

He said he expected his filly to relax and rate.

Hollendorfer, in turn, said Victorina will the one to beat.

"[Secret Scheme is] a big, good-looking filly," Hollendorfer said. "We're looking to get a stakes win. But she won't be the favorite here, and may not even be a strong second choice."

She should be the biggest factor for Victorina to deal with.