11/14/2002 12:00AM

Clement hopes stakes stays on turf


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Chris Clement is concerned.

An outstanding trainer of turf horses, he holds a strong hand for Saturday's $150,000 Long Island Handicap for fillies and mares on the grass at 1 1/2 miles. He plans to run Moon Queen, a stakes winner in France and in America, and Mot Juste, an impressive third in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl. But the forecast is for rain on Saturday in the New York area, and this frequently means a switch to the main track.

"It is a serious situation," Clement said. "We have already lost five graded stakes on the grass to bad weather this fall. We plan on the races that are listed in the stakes calendar and we prepare our horses carefully for those races and then it rains and we are presented with an entirely new situation."

Terry Meyocks, the president of the New York Racing Association, said every effort will be made to run the Long Island on the grass. He pointed out that several horses have been flown from Europe specifically for the race, and out of appreciation for their interest, some consideration is due. Meyocks also notes that with the grass racing season drawing to a close, the need to protect the turf course isn't as significant as it had been some weeks earlier.

He says that the key factor in making a decision on which course to use will be the safety of the jockeys.

"When we have a situation like this," Meyocks said, "we usually convene a group that includes the stewards, the track superintendent, the jockeys, and management, and we try to work out an equitable decision."

A soft course, the aftermath of heavy rain, need not be dangerous for riders, said former jockey Angel Cordero Jr. According to Cordero, who's now a jockey agent, there are bad track conditions that are dangerous for riders but a soft course, per se, is not one of them.

As for Clement, he has an affinity for the Long Island, which he won in 1993 with Trampoli. The race was split in 1998 and Clement saddled Coretta to win the faster division.

His Long Island candidates for Saturday are formidable.

Moon Queen raced in France until last fall, when she was purchased by Joe Allen and brought to New York. Before her departure, she won a Group 2 stakes at Longchamp.

Clement brought her to Florida last winter and she captured The Very One Handicap at Gulfstream, leading all the way. A leg problem kept her on the sidelines all summer but she has trained well in recent weeks. There is a question if she is fit enough, after so long an absence, to get the 1 1/2-mile trip but she has the speed and quality to do it. It is also worth noting that she won the Longchamp stakes last fall on a soft course.

Clement took over the training of Mot Juste last month when trainer Kiaran McLaughlin returned to Dubai on an annual mission to develop young horses for Sheikh Mohammed. Mot Juste, who came to the U.S. last fall for the Breeders' Cup, was a top filly in Europe. She was a close second in the Irish Oaks to Lailani, who won in this country, and was second in the Group 1 Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp on a heavy grass course. Mot Juste's best races are from off the pace and she makes an ideal prospect for the Long Island, a test of stamina.

Though he feels he missed out on several choice opportunities in the five grass stakes that were switched to dirt by bad weather, Clement has had a highly successful season. His stable has earned more than $4.5 million, and ranks in the top dozen on the national list.