05/14/2004 11:00PM

For Anna Em, better late than never

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer Tom Amoss is known for winning quickly with horses he acquires in private purchase for his clients. Anna Em took longer to yield a positive return on investment.

Saturday at Churchill Downs, 11 months after she was purchased, Anna Em paid off, winning the inaugural running of the $112,300 Open Mind Stakes.

Seizing command from the start in the five-furlong turf race, she dashed to the lead under Larry Melancon and expanded her lead over the opposition at every call. She won 6 1/2 lengths over a yielding course that had been soaked by heavy morning rain.

"She skipped over the track," winning rider Larry Melancon said.

Anna Em, a 3-year-old Our Emblem filly owned by G W M Farms, raced five furlongs in 57.22 seconds after setting fractions of 22.02 and 44.78. The Open Mind was her first stakes victory, and her third overall in nine starts.

Movant, a stakes winner at Fair Grounds over the winter, rallied for second, giving Amoss a one-two finish. Victoire Bataille finished three-quarters of a length farther back in third. Speedy Sonata, the 5-2 favorite, was seventh.

Anna Em was not always so successful. After being bought privately after a second-place finish in her debut for maiden $50,000, she finished last and second to last in her first two races under Amoss.

Gradually she began to come around. She won in January at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, and recently picked up a confidence-building win when she took an allowance at Mountaineer, earning a 98 Beyer Speed Figure.

"She had been a horse with real behavior problems," said Amoss. "Then in her race at Mountaineer we kind of figured things out."

Frequent schooling at the gate and paddock was to credit for the turnaround, Amoss said. A move to turf for the five-furlong Open Mind did not hurt, either.