06/18/2001 11:00PM

Two weeks' rest may be enough

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ELMONT, N.Y. - After nearly pulling off an upset in the $189,050 Just a Game Breeders' Cup Handicap, a Grade 3 on Belmont Stakes Day, Shopping for Love should find the waters less testing in Sunday's $75,000-added Mount Vernon at Belmont Park.

Trainer Ken Nesky said if he's satisfied with Shopping for Love's Wednesday morning workout at Belmont, the 4-year-old filly would make her next start in the Mount Vernon, a grass race for New York-breds. Ideally, Nesky would prefer more than two weeks between races for Shopping for Love, but said he was pleased with the way his filly came out of the Just a Game, where she finished second, beaten a neck by the favorite, License Fee.

"Three weeks would be a little better," Nesky said, "but her last race should give her some confidence against New York-breds."

Shopping for Love, last year's champion New York-bred turf filly, rarely runs a stinker. She is a winner of three stakes - the Ticonderoga on grass and the Busher and Bouwerie on dirt - from 14 starts. In Shopping for Love's last 10 starts, the only time she failed to pick up a check for her owners, Donald George and Dennis D'Arcangelo, was when she finished sixth in the Beaugay Handicap on May 6.

Nesky blames the result on Shopping for Love's wacky behavior in the Aqueduct paddock prior to the Beaugay.

"She got goofy in the paddock that day," Nesky said. "She's pretty high-strung and we treat her with kid gloves, but she's worth the effort. She was extremely good in the paddock in her last race. We take her to the paddock [in between races] quite a bit to school her."

Weights came out Tuesday for the 1 1/8-mile Mount Vernon on the inner turf. Shopping for Love, who will be ridden by Norberto Arroyo Jr., was assigned highweight of 123 pounds. Truebreadpudding (120), who finished eighth in the Just a Game and second to Gaviola in the Grade 3 Beaugay in May, is also expected, as is Seven Blues Baby (114).

Turner blames time and weight

Gaviola, a Grade 1 winner, threw in a rare clunker last weekend at Monmouth Park when she finished seventh as the 4-5 favorite in the $100,000 Vinery Matchmaker.

The winner, Batique, wired the field and set a course record of 1:46.19 for 1 1/8 miles, while carrying 112 pounds, nine fewer than Gaviola, the highweight.

Gaviola's trainer, Bill Turner, said his filly's weight assignment and the course record did her in.

"I wasn't ready for them to go down there in a track record," Turner said. "They ran three quarters in 1:09 and a mile in 1:33 and one and I thought, 'Golly, what's going on here?' When they run like that, the highweight horse doesn't win those races on the turf."

Turner said Gaviola would be pointed to the $250,000 New York Handicap at Belmont on July 14.

Hero's Tribute preps for Dwyer

Peter Pan winner Hero's Tribute worked Tuesday over Belmont's main track in preparation for the $150,000 Dwyer on July 8. The clockers timed the John Ward-trained Hero's Tribute in 1:00.24, handily, for his five-furlong work. The bullet at the distance was 58.88 seconds, handily, turned in by Ilusoria.

Also on the work tab was Brooklyn winner Albert the Great, whom trainer Nick Zito is pointing to the $500,000 Suburban Handicap on July 1. Albert the Great covered five furlongs in 1:00.17, breezing.