07/04/2003 12:00AM

River Downs: Just Michel a standout


Just Michel, first or second in all five career starts, will be a solid favorite to win her turf debut in the $40,000 Cincinnatian Stakes at River Downs.

The Cincinnatian, at 1 1/16 miles, is restricted to Ohio-bred 3-year-old fillies sired by a stallion standing in Ohio. Because of those conditions, the number of quality challengers to Just Michel is limited.

Just Michel, who has raced only at Thistledown, finished second in her career debut on April 10, then returned two weeks later to win her maiden as the odds-on choice. In subsequent starts, Just Michel has been underappreciated by bettors.

Following a narrow loss in nonwinners-of-two allowance company, Just Michel made her stakes debut against older fillies and mares in the Brent's Princess Stakes on May 24 and won by 2 1/4 lengths as an 11-1 outsider. In her most recent start, on the Ohio Derby undercard, Just Michel was a clear second at 9-1 in the Petro Memorial, her first race around two turns.

The one equalizer in the Cincinnatian is that none of the entrants has ever run on turf, and none of the major contenders possesses much of a turf pedigree.

If Just Michel fails to handle the turf, the fillies best able to take advantage are recent allowance winners My Favorite Girl, Gazelle Belle, and Oh So Easy.