02/16/2006 1:00AM

Hard to go wrong with Leparoux

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Louis Hodges Jr.
G P Fleet will go from the turf to Polytrack.

A simplistic method of picking winners has evolved this winter at Turfway Park. Just look for the horse that apprentice Julien Leparoux is riding.

Leparoux, who coming into Thursday led all North American jockeys this year with 82 wins, has made a mockery of the jockeys' race at Turfway in Florence, Ky. A 22-year-old native of France, Leparoux had 5 wins from 6 mounts Wednesday night, marking the fourth time this winter that he has won five times on a single program. Moreover, Leparoux had the first stakes win of his nascent career when he guided Cat Quatorze to victory last Saturday in the Likely Exchange Stakes.

This Saturday, Leparoux could be in line for a second stakes win when he climbs aboard Ask the Lord, one of the favorites in the $50,000 Dust Commander Stakes.

"I never dreamed Julien would be able to dominate the way he has," said Leparoux's agent, Steve Bass, himself a former jockey. "But his talent has really come through this winter. He's smart, he's extremely patient, and I really think that, given the opportunity, he can ride with anybody. Obviously we'll get a chance to see about that at Keeneland in April, but he has really shown me something the last few months."

Leparoux has ridden Ask the Lord twice this winter, and in both races the gelding coasted to impressive victories against allowance company. A 9-year-old with 20 wins and career earnings of nearly $700,000, Ask the Lord is one of nine older horses entered in the Dust Commander, a one-mile race named for the 1970 Kentucky Derby winner.

(post 4) will be coupled with another Bernie Flint-trained veteran, Paging (post 2), a 15-time winner who has earned nearly $465,000.

Speaking of Flint entries, Bernie's son, Steve, also will be represented by a stable coupling:

(post 1), a turf specialist who will be making his first start on the Polytrack surface at Turfway, and Barnard Man (post 7), a winner of his lone start on Polytrack, an allowance on Jan. 19.

One other notable challenger is (post 3), a proven stakes performer who stretches back out for trainer Dallas Stewart after racing exclusively in sprints the last six months.

The Dust Commander is the 10th of 12 races on a card that starts at 1:10 p.m. Eastern.