Updated on 09/18/2011 12:32AM

Good start key for Asti in wide-open allowance

Venetian Sunset with jockey John Velazquez wins and sets a new track record for 1 mile in the third race at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Allen Jerkens and the backers of his versatile mare Asti will certainly be holding their collective breath when the gate opens for Monday's $37,000 allowance feature at Gulfstream Park.

Asti has broken poorly in each of her last three starts, and she'll need an improved beginning if she is to defeat her eight rivals in Monday's wide-open main event. The race is carded under third-level optional claiming conditions at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

Despite the slow starts, Asti has posted a win, a second, and a third in her last three outings dating back to Oct. 15 at Belmont, when she recovered after hesitating at the break to win the Athenia Handicap over a muddy track. She broke even worse stepping up into Grade 3 company for the Turnback the Alarm Handicap in her 2005 finale, doing well to finish a well-beaten third behind the odds-on favorite, Indian Vale.

Asti returned to the grass for her local debut on Feb. 18 and again walked out of the gate. She also got caught in traffic attempting to rally on the far turn before gaining a short lead in early stretch. She was ultimately outgamed by La Dolce Vita to drop a tough head decision under second-level allowance conditions.

Jerkens will turn the reins over to leading rider John Velazquez, who will be aboard Asti for the first time on Monday.

Life, idle since finishing fourth in Calder's Connie Ann Stakes on Dec. 18, figures to receive plenty of support, with Edgar Prado taking the call for trainer Christophe Clement. Life won twice in her native France before launching her U.S. career here last winter, but remains a question mark at nine furlongs.

Present Danger, Omeya, and Choreograph are among the other key contenders in a field that also includes Wild Wedding, Moon Dolly, Moon Berry, and Rich Sense.

* Venetian Sunset broke stablemate Bandini's one-mile track record in Saturday's third race when he covered the distance in 1:34.11. The mark lasted less than three hours before being eclipsed in the afternoon's eighth race by the promising 3-year-old Showing Up, who went in 1:34.05 to win for the second time in as many starts. Showing Up, a son of Strategic Mission, was ridden by Javier Castellano and is trained by Barclay Tagg for the Lael Stables.