06/05/2002 11:00PM

Switch to grass a specialty for Hills


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Three-year-old filly Little Out has won two straight races on the dirt - a maiden special weight and an allowance, both convincingly - and for most trainers that would surely earn her a stakes try. Trainer Tim Hills is giving Little Out that stakes debut Saturday in the $50,000 Ocean Hotel Stakes - on the turf.

The move seems uncanny with Little Out's dirt success, but Hills has made it his trademark at Monmouth turning successful dirt runners into successful turf runners. Just last year, Hills turned Joe's Son Joey and Rideouts Patton from allowance winners on the main track to stakes winners on the turf.

In the past two weeks, Joe's Son Joey won a $100,000 turf sprint at Philadelphia Park, and Rideouts Patton captured last weekend's $50,000 Wolf Hill Stakes.

Clearly, Hills notices something - whether it is in a horse's pedigree or running style - in his horses that often encourages him to start them ambitiously in turf stakes right off the bat.

For Little Out, Hills views her pedigree as a likely indication of her turf potential. Hills trained Little Out's dam, Little Jeb, and he said she was bred for the turf but was injured before ever racing.

Little Jeb had two foals before Little Out, and although they were "useful claimers," as Hills put it, both won at five furlongs on the turf. The Ocean Hotel is at five furlongs for 3-year-old fillies.

"She breezed very well on the turf last week," Hills said, referring to Little Out's 51-second four-furlong workout May 29.

"We are very high on her, and this seems like a good opportunity to try her on the turf."

Little Out, a homebred owned by Dr. Thomas Croley, was sent to Hills's barn at Gulfstream Park in the winter. Hills said the filly, unraced at the time, was very green. For this reason, Hills eventually started Little Out in a high-priced maiden claiming race on March 6, in which she finished sixth. Fortunately for the connections, she was not claimed and has since clearly worked out the kinks from her early days in the Hills's barn.

Little Out has moved forward with every start, showing tremendous versatility in her starts. In a maiden special weight March 31, she set the pace and held on for second.

Three weeks later she won her maiden, stalking the pace and displaying the powerful kick down the lane that has marked her two victories. In her next start, in a solid 3-year-old filly allowance here May 11, she came from dead last to win going away.

The majority of the fillies entered are making their first turf starts, but Read Me My Rights and Tasty Lace have already proven their turf ability.

Trainer Dan Peitz ships in Read Me My Rights from his Belmont barn, and the filly has one win in her only start on the turf at Fair Grounds in March.

Tasty Lace, trained by Dale Capuano, overcame the 11 post in her last start, a turf sprint at Pimlico, and went wire-to-wire in her first grass start.

* Jockey Rachel Lavoy, who broke her collarbone in three places as a result of a spill in the second race Wednesday, suffered a concussion and a bad contusion on her left arm from where her mount, Raire Cliffs, stepped on her. She will be out four to six weeks and was scheduled to be released from Monmouth Medical Center on Thursday afternoon. Nick Santagata, also involved in the accident, escaped serious injury and will likely return to riding next week.

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