12/13/2008 1:00AM

Herboriste holds off J'ray by head

Jim Lisa
Eight weeks after winning her first race of 2008, Herboriste (center) became a graded stakes winner Saturday when she held off J'ray (far left) for a head victory in Calder's Grade 2 La Prevoyante Stakes.

MIAMI - It took Herboriste nearly 10 months to earn her first victory in 2008. It took her less than eight weeks more to become a graded stakes winner after she outfinished 2-1 favorite J'ray following a pulsating stretch battle to post a head decision in Saturday's Grade 2 La Prevoyante Stakes at Calder.

The $150,000 La Prevoyante was one of four graded stakes on the Grand Slam card.

Herboriste, a 5-year-old daughter of Hernando, was eligible for a second-level allowance condition when she finished fifth, beaten two lengths by Redaspen, in the 2007 La Prevoyante. She still remained eligible for the same condition after her first six starts in 2008 despite having been graded-stakes-placed on four occasions this year.

Herboriste finally earned her first victory of the campaign when she teamed up with jockey Julien Leparoux for the first time on Oct. 18, rallying to a 1 1/2-length victory in the 1 1/2-mile Dowager Stakes at Keeneland. She had Leparoux back aboard for her second attempt at the La Prevoyante and once again the pair proved a potent team.

Herboriste was allowed to settle off the early pace of The Niagara Queen, who opened as much as a 10-length lead during the opening mile of the 1o1/2-mile La Prevoyante. Herboriste and J'ray rallied in company on the final turn and readily ran past the tiring leader entering the stretch. Herboriste, racing nearest the inside, forged to a short lead nearing the eighth pole and was able to maintain her advantage following a furious duel through the final furlong.

Lamentation finished six lengths farther back in third in her U.S. debut. Communique, second choice in a field of 11 fillies and mares, checked in sixth.

Herboriste ($8.20) is trained by Michael Matz for owner Ehrnooth Amelie. She covered the distance in 2:25.47 over a turf course listed as good. Her final time was just .27 of a second off the stakes record set by Singular Bequest in 1988.

"She's come a long way since running in this race last year," said Matz. "She's had a very good year, running in the best races and holding her own."

Matz said Herboriste is scheduled to be bred next season but did not rule out the possibility she might start once more this winter at Gulfstream Park.