05/23/2002 12:00AM

Early lead a must for 'Moon'

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AUBURN, Wash. - Trainer Bill Tollett has done a marvelous job of placing Maid in the Moon throughout her career, finding one spot after another in which she was the clear speed of her field. The result has been eight wins from just 17 starts for Maid in the Moon, including wire-to-wire scores in her last three outings.

It remains to be seen whether Tollett's luck will hold through Saturday's Emerald Downs feature, in which Maid in the Moon will take on five other fillies and mares, all eligible to be claimed for $32,000, at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Maid in the Moon has only one serious rival for the lead, but she could prove formidable.

Pacific Reign, a 4-year-old half-sister to nine-time Emerald stakes winner Fleet Pacific, is coming off a gutsy win over $25,000 claimers on May 10, when she dueled for the lead through fast fractions before inching away late to score by half a length in 1:09.80 for six furlongs. That compares favorably with Maid in the Moon's most recent score on April 27, when she ran six furlongs in 1:10.

If Maid in the Moon and Pacific Reign try to fight for the lead, the result could be a torrid speed duel that would benefit the closers in the field, including Asummerforwindy.

Asummerforwindy is coming off a sharp win over the front-running Sophisticated Slew while racing for a $25,000 tag on May 11. She came from just off the pace to score by a nose in 1:16 for 6 1/2 furlongs. The victory was Asummerforwindy's fourth from seven tries at 6 1/2 furlongs. She has just one win from 15 starts at all other distances.

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