06/22/2001 12:00AM

Shopping for Love logical pick


ELMONT, N.Y. - Shopping for Love goes from live longshot to logical favorite when she drops back in with New York-breds in Sunday's $75,000 Mount Vernon Handicap at Belmont Park.

Two weeks ago, on Belmont Stakes Day, Shopping for Love battled stubbornly in the Grade 3 Just a Game Breeders' Cup Handicap, only to lose by a neck to License Fee. It was the third time in five races against open stakes company that Shopping for Love finished second.

"When you run a mile in [1:32.62] and get beat 10 inches it's a tough beat," said Kenny Nesky, who trains Shopping for Love for Donald George and Denni D'Arcangelo. "Her turn will come for bigger and better things."

Nesky has mapped out a campaign for Shopping for Love which includes several additional tries against open company this summer and fall. Because his next objective - either the Spicy Living Stakes at Rockingham or the Ballston Spa at Saratoga - isn't until August, Nesky has no trouble wheeling Shopping for Love back two weeks after the Just a Game. This will be her fourth race in seven weeks.

Nesky said he is more concerned how Shopping for Love will behave before the race than he is worried how she will run when the gates open. Nesky said Shopping for Love acted up in the paddock before her two races at Saratoga last year - both second-place finishes - and again before the Beaugay last month at Aqueduct where she finished last.

"At Belmont, the last two times she's been real good," Nesky said.

Although she carries a sporty 5-5-0 record from 14 career starts, Shopping for Love is only 1 for 7 on turf. The victory came against Critical Eye in the Ticonderoga Stakes here last October. Moreover, Shopping for Love picks up nine pounds from the Just a Game, and at 123 pounds, is spotting 3 to 14 pounds to her eight rivals. Norberto Arroyo rides.

The main threats to Shopping for Love are Truebreadpudding, Key Oui, and Polly Jo. In four meetings, Truebreadpudding has twice finished ahead of Shopping for Love, including a victory in last summer's Yaddo Handicap. Truebreadpudding was hard used early in the Just a Game when forced to press from her outside post.

Key Oui has been beaten by both Shopping for Love and Truebreadpudding in the past but comes off a hard-fought win against open company in her last start and is 3 for 7 over Belmont's turf course.

Polly Jo won a state-bred allowance race over this course last September.