11/14/2002 1:00AM

Two victories keep Armata on a roll


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Vito Armata's career-best year just keeps getting better.

Armata, 53, has been training since 1982 and enjoyed the biggest day of his career when T.J.'s Lucky Moon upset the $1 million Queen's Plate at Woodbine on June 23.

Armata entered this week with 47 winners here this year, a lifetime best for the trainer and good for fifth place in the standings.

He added one win to that total Wednesday night, when Acting Deputy captured a first-level allowance race, and another Thursday when Ocean's Top Gun won his maiden in the second race.

A New York-bred 3-year-old filly, Acting Deputy had been claimed for $45,000 from her last start here Nov. 7 and was recording her fifth straight win in her first try for Armata.

Acting Deputy started her roll when she won her maiden for $19,000 at Fort Erie, where she extended her streak to three before moving here Oct. 26 and scoring for $35,000. She also was claimed then.

"She's special, that one," Armata said. "She's a beauty."

Armata may run Acting Deputy one more time at this meet before it ends on Dec. 1.

In the meantime, the stable will be represented in Sunday's Bessarabian Handicap by Lightning Pace, a 4-year-old filly who was claimed for $20,000 Nov. 1.

Lightning Pace has been a win-machine this season, kicking off her campaign with three wins before finishing third in the seven-furlong Sweet Briar Too Stakes.

She then put together a double under allowance conditions before taking another crack at stakes company in the Oct. 26 Ontario Fashion.

But Lightning Pace was declared a non-starter in the Fashion after the stewards ruled she had received an unfair start.

Armata, however, is not about to dwell on that misfortune.

"She's been good to me," Armata said. "I've only run her eight times, and she's never missed a beat."

Rich Assertion, a 3-year-old filly Armata claimed for $20,000 July 10, also was nominated to the Bessarabian but will not participate.

No stakes action for Devastating

Devastating, who had been nominated to both the Bessarabian and to Wednesday's 1 1/16-mile Classy 'n Smart for Ontario-sired fillies and mares, has been sent to the farm for a break.

"It's been a long season for her," said Robert King, who trains Devastating for Orange Blossom Stable. "I'm going to run her next year, so I decided I might as well give her a break and bring her back. She was kind of over the top, and I thought it was best for her and everybody involved."

Devastating, a 4-year-old filly, put together consecutive seven-furlong stakes wins here this summer in the Sweet Briar Too and Kamar.

But Devastating tired badly in the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga Aug. 25. She finished second in her only subsequent appearance, which came in Fort Erie's 1 1/16-mile Harry A. Hindmarsh Stakes.

Devastating will winter at nearby Southgate Farm, along with 22 other King trainees.

Chopinina back on workout tab

Chopinina worked five furlongs in 1:02.60 on the main track here on Thursday. It marked her first workout since finishing 11th in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Arlington Park on Oct. 26

"She's holding her weight, and is enjoying herself," trainer Alec Fehr said. "I'm very happy with her."

Fehr is hoping that Chopinina will be invited to the Hong Kong Mile, at Sha Tin Race Course on Dec. 15. She has been nominated to that Group 1, $1.8 million race. The prospective field will be announced on Nov. 27.

"If she gets in and if all's well with her we'd probably ship out a few days after that, get her right over there," Fehr said.

Chopinina, a homebred 4-year-old, had finished second to Good Journey in the Atto Mile here before the Breeders' Cup. Good Journey went on to finish third in the BC Mile.

Mister Coop drills sharply

Mister Coop, who was scratched from a second-level allowance race here on Friday, drilled three furlongs in 35.60 seconds on the training track Thursday and is slated to start in the $125,000 Sir Barton Stakes here on Nov. 23.

"I decided [the Sir Barton] was going go come up a small field," trainer John Ross said.

The Sir Barton, a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired 3-year-old colts and geldings, attracted just nine nominees.

Change of scenery for First Quarter

Stage Classic and First Quarter both shipped out Thursday morning for races at Churchill Downs this weekend.

First Quarter, owned by Come By Chance Stable and Robert Schaedle, has been entered in Saturday's Grade 2 Mrs. Revere, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies that also has attracted the Woodbine-based Lush Soldier.

Robert Landry will ride First Quarter.

Stage Classic is slated for Sunday's Grade 3 River City, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up.

Constant Montpellier will ride.