10/14/2005 11:00PM

Asti takes Athenia in dirt bow

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Asti made an amazing recovery to win the off-the-turf Saturday at Belmont Park.

The $111,300 race for fillies and mares, originally slated for 1 1/16 miles on grass, was shifted to the muddy and sealed main track at the same distance. Bohemian Lady, My Lordship, and Zosima, the three main-track-only entrants, figured to hold a solid advantage in the six-horse field.

That edge seemed even more pronounced when Asti ($16.20) broke poorly and dropped way behind the pack on the run down the backstretch.

"I was shocked when she broke so slow," said her jockey, Jorge Chavez.

So was Allen Jerkens.

"This was kind of a shock," said the Hall of Fame trainer.

The main-track-only entrants took command right from the start, with Bohemian Lady, trained by Todd Pletcher, setting the pace followed by My Lordship and Zosima.

Bohemian Lady shook off a challenge from My Lordship turning for home and appeared on her way to her first stakes victory.

Suddenly, explosively, Asti burst onto the scene in late stretch. She seemed to accelerate with each stride, storming past for a three-quarter-length victory in 1:42.57.

"When I took her to the outside" Chavez said, "I started whipping and she responded.

I was surprised at how she ran today."

The surprise, a pleasant one, also extended to Jerkens as he ran the 4-year-old filly, who began her career in France, on the main track for the first time.

"We didn't know if she would run on the dirt at all," Jerkens said. "It certainly worked out. I had an inkling she would, because she always worked well on the dirt leading up to a turf race."

Asti got her first win in eight races since joining the Jerkens barn this season.

Bohemian Lady, the even-money favorite, held for second, with Zosima third.

"We were just second-best," Pletcher said. "The Chief" - Jerkens - "was in the right place at the right time, and he came and got us."

The race, listed at Grade 3, lost its grading because of the surface switch.