12/09/2002 12:00AM

Stars Go Blue gives connections high hopes


MIAMI - When owner Joe Graffeo and trainer Steve DiMauro decided to run Stars Go Blue, a maiden, against the likes of Ivanavinalot in the My Dear Girl Division of the Florida Stallion Series, it was not with the hope of winning the race. The thought was Stars Go Blue might pick up a check and at the same time get some valuable two-turn and stakes experience.

But when Graffeo and DiMauro run Stars Go Blue on New Years Day in the $100,000 Tropical Park Oaks, they will have every intention of starting off their filly's 3-year-old campaign on a winning note.

Stars Go Blue surprised nearly everyone, Graffeo and DiMauro included, when she finished second behind division leader Ivanavinalot in the My Dear Girl. She fooled nobody, however, when she returned Monday to dominate maiden allowance competition with an extremely impressive performance as the 3-5 favorite.

"We couldn't have expected more from this filly and were totally ecstatic over her performance in the My Dear Girl," said DiMauro minutes after Stars Go Blue earned her diploma on Monday. "We didn't want to run her back too soon off the stakes. Then we decided to try her on turf, since she's got some family who've run on grass as well as a pretty good foot for the surface."

Monday's maiden race was originally carded for the grass but was switched to the main track because of heavy overnight rains.

"She had more turn of foot than I expected today," said DiMauro. "Although she fell far back early, she didn't grind her way to get up but picked up the pace very quickly and really exploded around horses on the turn.

"And best of all," DiMauro said, jockey Gary Boulanger "said she had plenty left at the end."

Graffeo paid $82,000 for Stars Go Blue, a big, good-looking bay daughter of Open Forum, at the Ocala Breeders' March Sale. That was in contrast to the $50,000 he put up to acquire the star of his stable, Two Item Limit, who ultimately went on to earn more than $1 million.

"At the time, $82,000 was a little beyond our range and at that point the most we'd ever spent for a horse at the sales," said DiMauro. "Right now, who knows what she is or might turn out to be. We think she has the potential to become a very good horse. And that's what this business is all about. High hopes."

DiMauro also confirmed that Two Item Limit will make the final start of her career on Dec. 28 in the $100,000 Stage Door Betty Handicap.

"She'll run once more at the end of the meet right here at home, and then she's going directly to the breeding shed," said DiMauro.

Top local fillies to compete

The Stage Door Betty, one of four stakes races on the Grand Slam II program, will be a showcase for the best fillies and mares on the grounds. Among those also expected to start in the 1 1/16-mile race, along with Two Item Limit, are local division leaders Coolbythepool and Castlebrook.

Trainer Bill Kaplan said he decided to turn down Castlebrook's invitation to Saturday's Great State Challenge in Texas, where she would have had to face Grade 1 winner Take Charge Lady, to await the Stage Door Betty.

"We just felt it was in her best interests to avoid horses like Take Charge Lady and keep her home for her next start," said Kaplan, who trains Castlebrook for owners Herb and Ione Elkins.