03/24/2005 1:00AM

'Beter Man' on the brink of going after graded stakes

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NEW ORLEANS - The Beter Man Can is one of the brightest stars to emerge from the 2004-05 Fair Grounds meet. A 3-year-old Louisiana-bred filly, The Beter Man Can whipped her peers in restricted races and won the Tiffany Lass Stakes against open company.

She has performed so well in open company that Saturday's $100,000 Sarah Lane's Oates Handicap, a mile grass stakes for 3-year-old Louisiana-bred fillies, may be her last race against statebreds for a while.

If she runs well Saturday, could even be back on the Kentucky Oaks trail. Trainer Pat Mouton is seriously considering starting her in the Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park on April 15.

"We're certainly thinking about it," said Mouton. "It just depends on how she runs this weekend, and how she comes out of it."

Mouton's confidence has been repeatedly stoked by the powerful running style and striking physical presence of the tall, well-muscled The Beter Man Can. She won her debut in September, then took the Laurel Lane Stakes at Louisiana Downs in her second start. She came into the Lassie on Louisiana Champions Day as the 4-5 favorite and ran her only poor race.

"We never found out what happened to her that day," said Mouton, who wheeled The Beter Man Can back two weeks later in the Louisiana Futurity here. She won that race by more than six lengths, prompting Mouton to enter her in the Tiffany Lass. She beat the classy Enduring Will and Punch Appeal in that race at 11-1. The Beter Man Can returned in the Grade 2 Silverbulletday, finishing fourth to Summerly. Two weeks later she ran against Louisiana-breds in the Battler Star Handicap, winning by more than seven lengths.

Now, The Beter Man Can will try the turf for the first time. She will have to beat the undefeated Blueyed Lass, from the very strong Louisiana-bred connections of trainer Gary Palmisano and owner Vickie Krantz, who previously campaigned the consistent turf horse Coach Rags, a winner of more than $440,000.

"She's by Sky Classic out of Coach Rags's half-sister, so she's three-quarter bloodline to Rags," said Palmisano.

Palmisano knows The Beter Man Can is a deserving favorite, but he thinks he has the filly to take her measure on the turf course.

"Pat Mouton's horse has the experience over us, and she looks tough to beat," said Palmisano. "But, we're not going to concede anything."

Equestrian Girls, who beat The Beter Man Can in the Lassie, will also be making her turf debut in the race.