07/02/2004 11:00PM

Friendly Michelle wins Prioress

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ELMONT, N.Y. - In her last two starts, Friendly Michelle had done all the dirty work on the front end. Though she was able to hold on and win the Grade 3 La Troienne, Friendly Michelle faltered to third in the Grade 1 Acorn.

Saturday, Friendly Michelle was able to stalk another horse, and her strong kick was good enough run down the pacesetting Forest Music inside the eighth pole to win the Grade 1, $250,000 by 2 1/4 lengths at Belmont Park. Longshot Feline Story ran down Forest Music by a nose for second.

Why You, She's a Mugs, Aspen Gal, Bending Strings, Bohemian Lady, and Very Vegas complete the order of finish.

It was the first Grade 1 victory for Friendly Michelle, a 3-year-old daughter of Artax owned by Ed Friendly and trained by Bob Baffert. Overall, Friendly Michelle is 5 for 8.

The victory served as a consolation prize of sorts for jockey Corey Nakatani, who one race earlier finished sixth aboard favored Dynever in the Grade 1, $500,000 Suburban Handicap.

Nakatani, riding Friendly Michelle for the first time, was content to let Forest Music and Shaun Bridgmohan set the pace. Forest Music ran an opening quarter-mile in 21.82 seconds and a half-mile in 44.43. Friendly Michelle was third after the opening quarter and was within 1 1/2 lengths of Forest Music at the quarter pole.

After running five furlongs in 56.34 seconds, Forest Music began to shorten strid,e and Friendly Michelle took command. Friendly Michelle covered the six furlongs in 1:09.09 and returned $5.70 as the 9-5 favorite.

"She put me in the race really nice," Nakatani said. "She got underneath me, and I all I had to was give her the proper key to go. When I asked her to run, she did, and we were moving pretty well."

Friendly Michelle will be pointed to the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga on July 31.