01/20/2007 1:00AM

Any Limit gets biggest win yet in First Lady


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - After watching Any Limit work five furlongs in 57.60 seconds on Tuesday in preparation for Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 First Lady Handicap, trainer Allen Jerkens considered holding her out of the race. Fortunately, Jerkens let Any Limit start, and he was rewarded with an impressive 2 1/2-length victory over a field that included Grade 1 winner Malibu Mint.

Any Limit not only overcame the fast work but a poor start to register her first graded stakes win for owner-breeder Joseph Shields Jr. A daughter of Limit Out, she recovered from her poor start to rush up between horses and prompt the early pace of Contrast, then engaged that rival for the lead entering the stretch, and easily pulled away to a decisive win under jockey Rafael Bejarano.

Contrast, making her first start since capturing Delaware's Candy Eclair Stakes on June 20, held on tenaciously and outgamed the rail-skimming longshot Actslikealady to finish second. Malibu Mint, winner of the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder in July, raced near the rear of the pack during the early stages of the First Lady, came very wide into the stretch, and was never a serious factor as the even-money favorite. The First Lady was her first start since she won the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct on Nov. 24.

Any Limit ran six furlongs in 1:10.58 over a fast and speed favoring track and paid $7.60.

"She worked too fast the other morning but got away with it," said Jerkens, who registered his first win of the meet. "Working fast like that would upset most horses, and usually they won't touch their feed after training like that. But she ate every oat, which is why I decided to run her. When she broke slow, I thought, 'What else is new?' since we haven't even picked up a check all year, but fortunately everything worked out well."

Jerkens didn't offer any future plans for Any Limit, but said he may now try to stretch her out.

"I think after the way she ran today she'll go further now," said Jerkens.