01/30/2009 12:00AM

Amoss filly has been a surprise

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NEW ORLEANS - Awkwardly put together and slow during her morning works, Achnasheals didn't inspire a lot of confidence when she arrived in Tom Amoss's barn. But after watching her performance in her first race, Amoss began to believe Achnasheals had some talent.

For her second race, he stepped her up into a maiden special weight on the turf, and she responded with a dominating victory.

Achnasheals will try to overachieve again in her third start when she goes in Sunday's ninth race, a first-level allowance for fillies and mares going 5 1/2 furlongs over the Fair Grounds turf course.

Owned and bred by Paul and Andrena Van Doren, Achnasheals didn't look ready to race as a juvenile, and so she was held back from racing until late in her 3-year-old year.

"She's a big filly, and not very correct," said Amoss. "Henry Alexander, the farm manager, gave her time to develop, for her bones to be mature, and it has paid off."

In addition to her unimpressive looks, Achnasheals didn't seem very fast.

"Her breezes were very ordinary going into her first race," said Amoss. "But then she showed real promise in her first race, a very pleasant surprise."

That first race was a $20,000 maiden claiming race, and Achnasheals finished second while making a few rookie mistakes. As a result, Amoss decided to step her up in class.

In her second start, on Jan. 11 here, Amoss put her in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight race on turf, and Achnasheals wired the field, pulling away to win by 4 1/4 lengths.

Achnasheals will face more pressure on the front end of this race, with Mystery Tune poised to come out quickly, as she did while wiring the field by 7 1/4 lengths in her last race, an off-the-turf $30,000 claiming race here on Jan. 8.

If there is a pace duel, Sweet Lemonade looks poised to take advantage. Last time out, her first race in nearly a year, she rated off the pace before taking over in the stretch to win a maiden special weight.

That race was Sweet Lemonade's first for trainer Bret Calhoun, and he had worked her especially hard to get her ready.

"She's a little bit of a lightly made filly and I put some stiff breezes into her before her first race for me," said Calhoun. "I trained her pretty hard for that one, and I've been able to ease off since her race."