05/26/2005 12:00AM

Victory Lap a filly on the rise

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The owners group Turf Express has shifted its focus over the last year, transforming the operation from a large, claim-driven barn to one that races a midsize stable of quality fillies. One of its recent success stories is Injustice, who captured the Grade 3, $175,000 Azeri Breeders' Cup at Oaklawn Park in March, one start after being purchased privately.

Saturday, it appears Turf Express could have another stakes winner. Victory Lap will be favored to make it four wins in a row when she makes her stakes debut in the $50,000 Chapel Belle at Louisiana Downs.

She was purchased by Turf Express and Bobby Beck in March following her maiden win, and one start later she captured a $62,500 claiming race at Gulfstream Park. Victory Lap, who has 10 career starts, was moved to this region for her last out, and won an entry-level allowance for trainer Cole Norman.

"This filly's pretty nicely bred," said Mark Cornett, president of Turf Express. "Her mother's a half-sister to Storm Creek."

Storm Creek was a Grade 3 winner, and has developed into a solid stallion. Victory Lap is a daughter of Touch Gold, and her pedigree and promise fit the new approach being taken by Turf Express.

"It's hard to make money in the claiming game," said Cornett. "The fillies, at least you can build up some residual value."

, winner of the $100,000 Sarah Lane's Oates at one mile on turf at Fair Grounds in March, and Ready to Live, who last year captured the $50,000 Rebel at six furlongs at Louisiana Downs.

stretches out off a six-furlong race and could be prominent early, while Victory Lap figures to carve out a stalking trip under Gerard Melancon.

"She'll sit in the middle of the pack probably, and she's got a pretty good turn of foot," said Cornett. "I would think she'd be angled off the turn, and then be somewhere down the middle of the track and run them down, hopefully."

Turf Express could have two other stakes starters over the weekend. Lunachick is to run in a stakes at Golden Gate Fields on Sunday, while Kalahari Cat, whose dam is a half-sister to Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Desert Stormer, is being pointed for an overnight stakes at Arlington.