02/17/2002 1:00AM

Moon Queen takes The Very One


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Moon Queen led from start to finish in Sunday's $100,000 The Very One Handicap at Gulfstream Park, and though no one ever got close to her, and she won by 6 1/2 lengths, she provided her supporters with some anxious moments as she neared the finish.

With less than 50 yards remaining in the race, Moon Queen suddenly ducked to the outside and changed leads. Jockey Jerry Bailey had to hold on tightly to the reins as Moon Queen flashed under the wire.

"She was looking all over the whole race," Bailey said. "She was looking at the grandstand. She was getting closer and closer to the rail, and once she realized how close she was, she jumped back."

That was the most exciting part of the 1 3/8-mile grass race. Moon Queen, the 13-10 favorite, thoroughly dominated her five rivals. She loped along on a sensible pace over a course rated yielding, then turned on the jets once straightening away into the lane. She was timed in 2:18.38 and returned $4.60 to her backers in the crowd of 16,738 who basked in ideal weather.

Jennasietta, at 14-1 the longest shot in the field, rallied from last to finish second, one length in front of Sweetest Thing, the 5-2 second choice.

Moon Queen, a 4-year-old daughter of Sadler's Wells, was making only her second start in this country, and her first for trainer Christophe Clement, after racing previously in France. The victory in the Grade 3 stakes was her fourth in 12 lifetime starts. She is owned by Joseph Allen.

Moon Queen, who is out of the Shirley Heights mare Infamy, is a half-sister to Innuendo, with whom Bailey and Clement teamed to win The Very One last year.