05/06/2008 12:00AM

Statebreds hold an edge in Gaviola


ELMONT, N.Y. - A trio of New York-bred fillies - I Lost My Choo, Sherine, and Love Co - figure to make their presence felt in Thursday's $75,000 Gaviola Stakes.

The 1 1/16-mile Gaviola, scheduled for the Widener turf, serves as a logical stepping-stone to the Grade 3, $150,000 Sands Point three weeks from Saturday. It drew a field of 10 3-year-old fillies that also includes the Bruce Levine-trained entry of Miss Mecke Mouse and Wonderwho'sbest, one of whom will scratch, and Forest Trail, entered for the main track only.

I Lost My Choo rose to prominence at Gulfstream by winning three straight races on firm, good, and yielding turf with strong late runs for trainer Phil Serpe. Sent off as the favorite in the recent Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland, I Lost My Choo drifted out just behind the early pacesetter while a bit rank entering the first turn, and battled tenaciously through a final quarter in 23.07 seconds to wind up third in a blanket finish.

Namaste's Wish, winner of the Miss Grillo Stakes here last fall, raced wide finishing a close fifth in the Appalachian in her first start of the year for Bill Mott. Like I Lost My Choo, Namaste's Wish has a solid late kick, and could receive a favorable pace setup due to the presence of several fillies with early speed.

Sherine returned from a 55-day freshening to post a front-running upset of the Grade 2 Comely Stakes on Aqueduct's main track last month. The versatile filly set the pace in three turf routes as a juvenile, including the Miss Grillo, but faces the prospect of a wide run on the dogleg into the backstretch as Raw Silk, Miss Mecke Mouse, and Love Co also vie for early position.

Love Co has been freshened since setting the pace in the Busher Stakes against subsequent Ashland winner Little Belle. She scratched out of last Sunday's Bouwerie Stakes, won in a romp by the unbeaten Northern Netti.

"She's out of a Cozzene mare, so I see a huge turf influence there," said trainer Gary Contessa. "She doesn't want dirt in her face, but on grass I don't believe she has to be on the lead. She's naturally fast, but depending how things materialize, I have no problem with the rider taking a hold early."

In the event of a switch to wet dirt, Love Co would remain a contender. "Even better," said Contessa. "That we know she likes."

Sensational Love and My Princess Jess complete the field.