12/26/2002 12:00AM

Mot Juste heads Clement charge


MIAMI - Mot Juste is a fascinating filly. She is full of class and ability, as measured by her performances against top competition on the international stage. But something usually happens to deny her victory. She has won only 3 of 14 starts.

Her last race was a case in point. She threatened to win Aqueduct's Long Island Handicap, but her move proved a bit premature. She surrendered her lead and had to settle for third when she might have been best.

Mot Juste has what appears to be an excellent chance to get it right on Saturday in the $200,000 La Prevoyante Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/2 miles on the Calder turf course. The La Prevoyante is one of four attractive stakes wrapped in a package marked Grand Slam II and designed to emphasize the quality of racing presented at Calder in December.

Mot Juste, who will be part of an uncoupled entry with the talented Julie Jalouse, is a 4-year-old daughter of Mtoto who races for Sheikh Mohammed. Like many horses trained by Christophe Clement, she began her career in Europe, and she attracted attention last season with smart performances in Group 1 features such as the Prix Vermeille and the Prix de l'Opera.

She required some time to adjust to American racing but came to hand for Clement this fall to give solid efforts in the Flower Bowl Invitational and the Long Island. Clement advises Mot Juste has trained in forward fashion for the La Prevoyante and will have Jerry Bailey in the irons to help her cause.

Julie Jalouse has credentials of her own. She came from Ireland last winter and Clement had her ready to win the Orchid Handicap at 1 1/2 miles in her American debut at Gulfstream Park. She didn't race during the summer, but rounded to form in recent months.

Julie Jalouse is owned by Lady Reilly, who is the former Chris Goulandris and wife of Sir Anthony Reilly, who is the chairman of the H.J. Heinz Corp.

Jose Santos, who enjoyed an outstanding season capped by a sensational victory aboard Volponi in the Breeders' Cup Classic, has the mount on Julie Jalouse.

Clement, who won consecutive runnings of the La Prevoyante in 1998 and 1999 with Coretta, will be seeking his fifth victory in the stakes. The La Prevoyante is named for the champion 2-year-old filly of 1972 who won all 12 of her starts that year in the colors of the late Montreal sportsman Louie Levesque.

La Prevoyante was at Calder two years later as the favorite in the Miss Florida Handicap. After opening a long early lead with her remarkable speed, she faltered and was well beaten. Walking back to the barn after the race, she was the victim of an apparent heart attack and died. Levesque, who held her in special regard, was devastated.

Another highlight of Saturday's card, the $200,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap, honors the memory of a man who did so much for racing and breeding in Florida.

McKnight, longtime chairman of the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co., started a stable in the 1950's with trainer Johnny Nerud. Nerud became interested in an artificial racing surface for the cause of safety and persuaded Saul Silberman, president of Tropical Park, to install an experimental strip inside the main course that would be devised by 3M engineers.

This was about the time that Stephen Calder was building a track in Miami for summer racing. Calder needed financing and McKnight agreed to loan him $30 million if the new track had an artificial surface. The deal was struck, enabling the construction of Calder, but the artificial surface proved impractical. Following extensive testing over several seasons, the surface was abandoned.