05/05/2006 12:00AM

Man Of Illusion wins Aegon Turf Sprint


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A better start led to a better finish for Man of Illusion in Friday's Grade 3 at Churchill Downs.

After breaking slowly and encountering tons of trouble when third in the Shakertown at Keeneland last month, Man of Illusion broke much better under Julien Leparoux, stalked a hot pace, and was able to wear down a game Justice for Auston by a head. It was three-quarters of a length back to Atticus Kristy in third.

"He broke real well from the gate, that changed everything," said Leparoux, who was also aboard for the Shakertown. "I was in the race pretty early today and in this race I had no problems and he's a good horse."

A 5-year-old Australian-bred, Man of Illusion was making his North American debut in the Shakertown, and wasn't used to having an assistant starter in the gate with him. He broke slowly, and was caught behind a couple of tiring speed horses. He still rallied to finish third, beaten two lengths.

Trainer Patrick Biancone worked with Man of Illusion in the gate in between races and it paid off.

Man of Illusion was fourth entering the far turn as Lion Andthe Lamb and Western Kind set a swift up pace up front. Justice for Auston, a 38-1 shot trained by Dale Romans, stalked those two, and took the lead inside the sixteenth pole before Man of Illusion was able to wear him down in the final strides. Man of Illusion covered five furlongs in 56.28 seconds and returned $6.80 as the favorite.

"We were planning to break well today because the last time he ran he was not as sharp as today because it was a comeback race and I didn't know him well," Biancone said. "Now he's acclimatized to American style [racing]; as he jumped better he got better position, he got clear run. Sometimes you need to lose a race to win the next one and we're very happy he won today."