01/15/2005 12:00AM

The Beter Man Can best in Tiffany Lass

Lynn Roberts.
America Alive (left) edges Honor in War (center) and Rapid Proof in the Col. Bradley.

NEW ORLEANS - Jerry Bailey was stuck at the airport, unable to ride the odds-on favorite Punch Appeal in the $100,000 . Sent off at 2-5, Punch Appeal then got stuck in second gear and was upset in the Tiffany Lass by a Louisiana-bred 11-1 shot named The Beter Man Can.

The Beter Man Can, bred and owned by Stanley Seelig, looked good winning the $85,000 Louisiana Futurity here Dec. 26, but she had never raced outside Louisiana-bred company, had never run around two turns, and, according to trainer Pat Mouton, was using the Tiffany Lass as a prep for a Delta Downs stakesthree weeks away.

"Of course you're trying to win a $100,000 race," Mouton said. "But yes, we were thinking of this as a stepping-stone."

The Beter Man Can moved to challenge Punch Appeal for the lead on the far turn of the one-mile Tiffany Lass. She made the lead at the top of the stretch and held off a steady rally from Enduring Will, winning by a neck. Punch Appeal was third, followed by Eyes on Eddy, Chubbs Last Call, and Emmy's Storm.

Punch Appeal, a four-time stakes winner trained by Steve Asmussen, made an easy early lead under Donnie Meche. Meche, who had ridden Punch Appeal in her last start, was subbing for Jerry Bailey, whose plane from Florida was delayed Saturday morning. Bailey had made it to New Orleans in the afternoon but was unable to get to Fair Grounds in time to ride.

Punch Appeal had a 1 1/2-length lead through an opening quarter-mile in 24.22 seconds and a half in 48.63, and she appeared to be cruising.

"She felt so relaxed it was unreal," Meche said. "Turning up the backstretch, I said there was no way they were going to beat her, but she never went on with it."

Elvis Perrodin, riding The Beter Man Can, tested Punch Appeal heading into the far turn, and it was his horse, the longshot, that ran on.

America Alive's short rest no problem

The trainer Neil Howard is an inveterate worrier, and his concern Saturday was that America Alive had raced too recently to deliver a top effort in the $100,000 Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap.

But the colt's timing was perfect.

The 15-day break didn't faze America Alive, and he was up at the wire to win the Bradley in a blanket finish. Honor in War, turning in a solid effort, finished second, a nose in front of Rapid Proof, the horse America Alive had edged here Dec. 31.

America Alive races from the back of the field and uses a big kick to win races, but a furlong from the Bradley's finish, he and Robby Albarado were buried behind a wall of horses. Albarado briefly steadied and stood up, but path by path he steered America Alive outside and toward daylight; when the horse was clear, he flew home, getting up to win by a head.

America Alive, an American Chance colt bred and owned by Mill House, paid $8.20 to win, and was timed in 1:44.43 for 1 1/16 miles on firm turf.

Leggio: Ambition Unbridled at 21-1

Ambition Unbridled came up short in the prep race for the at Fair Grounds, but the conditioning set her up for a front-running 21-1 upset score in the Leggio itself. "We didn't win the prep, but we were ready for the race," said trainer Gamaliel Vazquez. "This time it was for $100,000 and that's what we wanted."

Jockey Corey Lanerie broke Ambition Unbridled ($44.20) quickly from the gate, with Datttsdawayilikeit and Tracy Hebert just to her outside, Our Love tracking her in third under John Jacinto, and Tara's Touch right there in fourth. Speedy Sonata and Dyna Da Wyna did not break sharply and Lanerie was able to avoid a potential suicidal pace. After running the first quarter in 21.90 seconds, Lanerie gave Ambition Unbridled a break to the half-mile in 45.52.

"I was concerned about the pace," said Vazquez, "especially when I saw that '21' up there. But I told Corey just to let her relax on the lead and don't push her if they try to jam you. He did a great job of getting her to relax."

After slowing it down, Lanerie asked Ambition Unbridled for run at the head of the stretch and she kicked clear, then held off Tara's Touch by a half-length, timed in 1:04.10 for the 5 1/2 furlongs of turf. Tara's Touch headed Our Love for second, with Stirrin Up a Storm a nose behind in fourth. It was a neck farther back to fifth-place finisher Beautiful Bets, with Shaunavon another head back in sixth.

- additional reporting by John Swenson