01/12/2009 12:00AM

Au Moon has the stuff of upsets


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Au Moon isn't the fastest 3-year-old in Saturday's Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds, or the most experienced.

Au Moon has made just two starts: a 10th-place finish in his debut when sprinting over Polytrack at Keeneland Oct. 15 and a maiden victory at Churchill Downs on Nov. 29, a race that earned him a modest Beyer Speed Figure of 75.

But for couple reasons, he might just prove to be the winner of the one-mile Lecomte.

For starters, he is a legitimate router. He won his second start at 1 1/8 miles – a taxing distance over which few 2-year-olds are capable of running quickly. Without the racing and training foundation of older horses, they seem to fatigue.

Not Au Moon. Stalking the pace in third for the first three-quarters of a mile of the race, he overpowered the leaders and drew off to a 5 3/4-length victory with jockey Julien Leparoux never resorting to his stick. He merely nudged him along for the first half of the stretch and then allowed him to coast under the wire with his ears pricked.

Admittedly, Au Moon didn't defeat the quality of foes he faces in the Lecomte, but he did beat a solid maiden field, an opinion reinforced when the fifth-place finisher from the race, Lohad, came back to win a maiden race at Turfway by 2 3/4 lengths after running 10 1/2 lengths behind Au Moon.

The other reason to like Au Moon in the Lecomte is his style. In winning his last start, he showed the speed to gain position, but he was by no means speed-crazy. He rated kindly without Leparoux having to take a hard hold.

Many of his opponents in the Lecomte do not seem so tractable. Friesan Fire, Citizen, Big Push, Professor Z, and Indygo Mountain appear to want to race on or close to the pace.

Their presence sets the stage for a quick pace, and a prime opportunity for Au Moon - drawn favorably in post 2 - to get another favorable stalking trip.

Despite his inexperience, he offers value if he starts close to his 8-1 morning-line odds.

Tiffany Lass

Saturday's card at Fair Grounds includes five other stakes, including the Tiffany Lass for 3-year-old fillies, which like the Lecomte will be run at a mile.

With just five fillies entered, finding a big price is difficult, but a useful wagering opportunity still exists.

Just Jenda is the play despite finishing fifth, 6 1/4 lengths behind Tiffany Lass entrant Four Gifts in the Grade 3 Delta Princess Dec. 5.

Just Jenda adds the anti-bleeding medication Lasix for the first time in the Tiffany Lass, but more than anything she should simply benefit from the experience she gained in the Princess. Unlike in her first two starts, when she dominated maidens and minor stakes horses at Philadelphia Park, she found herself in heavy traffic, farther off the pace than accustomed.

Expect that race to move her forward, and a bullet five-furlong work in 1:01 indicates she is coming into this race in top condition.

She needs to improve to turn the tables on Four Gifts, and also handle the unbeaten Selva, but she could prove up to the challenge as the 5-2 third choice in the race.

Wishing Well

Horseplayers looking for a deeper field to bet on should take a long look at Saturday's $50,000 Wishing Well at Turfway. The six-furlong race drew a field of 12, plus a pair of also-eligibles.

Mrs Petoski, a synthetic-track specialist by Orientate, is my value-based choice, having won 4 of 7 on all-weather surfaces, with three of those victories coming at Turfway Park.

My hope is that her eighth-place finish in the Nov. 30 Holiday Inaugural behind Afleet Angel and Vote Early - two mares in the Wishing Well - will dissuade some horseplayers from backing her.

I'll forgive the loss. Mrs Petoski entered that race off a layoff of nearly four months, and it showed in her rusty performance.

Returned about three weeks later in an open allowance at Turfway, she showed her potential by running down a loose-on-the-lead Pola's Place and finishing seven lengths clear of Vote Early. That performance earned her a Beyer Figure of 88, the top last-race figure in the race.

Now in her third start off a layoff, she looks poised to run as well, if not better. Look for her to sit just off the leaders on the outside and pounce coming into the lane.