01/01/2008 12:00AM

Shopton Lane exits a good losing effort


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Shopton Lane suffered his first and only loss of 2007 in his most recent start. But in some ways, Shopton Lane's second-place finish in the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap may have been his best performance of the year.

"I thought it was, because I thought it was a big step up in company," said Bruce Levine, who trains Shopton Lane. "It wasn't the greatest Grade 3 in the world, but it was a Grade 3, and you certainly couldn't knock the horse that won it."

That horse was Now a Victor, who stalked Shopton Lane for more than six furlongs of the Discovery before challenging him in upper stretch and putting him away at the sixteenth pole. Shopton Lane was beaten 1 1/4 lengths while holding off Dr. V's Magic for second.

Thursday, Shopton Lane takes another shot at becoming a stakes winner in the $65,000 Brushing Up, an overnight stakes carded for a mile and 70 yards on Aqueduct's inner track.

The Brushing Up came up a salty race, with the talented New York-bred Stunt Man and the improving Spanish Harlem in the field.

Levine feels Shopton Lane has been on a better training schedule leading up to this race than the Discovery. Shopton Lane shows three solid breezes over Belmont's training track for this.

"He's training as good as you'd want one to be training," Levine said.

Shopton Lane, a 4-year-old son of Quiet American owned by Maggi Moss, has shown speed in a majority of his victories, but displayed the ability to rate when he won a second-level allowance race at Monmouth Park in August. There is plenty of speed in this field.

"We'll let the rider play the break and see what happens," said Levine. C.C. Lopez will ride.

The horse to beat is Stunt Man, who has turned out to be one of the best claims of the 2007. Trainer Gary Contessa and Steve Sigler's Winning Move Stable claimed Stunt Man for $25,000 in March, and the horse has won 5 of 12 starts since and banked $335,381. In his last five starts, Stunt Man has won four stakes and finished fifth to Daaher in the Grade 2 Jerome Handicap at Belmont in October. Contessa will also send out Wisp.

* There is a pick-six carryover of $46,068 heading into Thursday's card.