03/05/2008 12:00AM

Talented, but still learning

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NEW ORLEANS – Honest Man came to New Orleans with only a maiden win under his belt and put together two dominating local allowance wins. Last month, he went to Sam Houston and tried his hand at a stakes race, finishing a badly beaten fifth in the Maxxam Gold Cup.

When he goes forward in Friday’s ninth race, a $42,000 third-level optional claimer at a mile on the main track, he will get his chance to close out a perfect Fair Grounds season.

Trainer Larry Jones believes it was the both the track and the class of competition that worked against Honest Man in the Maxxam.

“I don’t want to say it was the track, but he came out the stakes a little body sore.” Jones said. “But mostly I think it was a class check for him.”

Jones believes Honest Man will have to learn to dig in and respond when challenged.

“When those older horses stayed with him, it created a little confusion on his part,” Jones said. “He was used to putting horses away, but he’s got to get into those battles and win.”

Honest Man indicated his preference for the Fair Grounds track by turning in a bullet work in his tune-up for Friday’s race, going four furlong in 46.80 seconds.

“He looks to be in good shape after the bullet work,” Jones said. “This looks like a good spot to rebound off the stakes.”

While the competition isn’t stakes class, several in the field of six look capable of providing Honest Man with a legitimate test.

Maggi Moss and Steve Asmussen claimed Mister Triester three races ago, and he hasn’t done anything but win since the claim. Two races ago, he stalked the pace in a $25,000 claiming race at the Fair Grounds, taking over at the top of the stretch and coming home a three-length winner.

When Asmussen stepped him up to allowance company last time out, Mister Triester responded with his best race in 19 career starts, earning a 97 Beyer Speed Figure while coming from off the pace to win by 1 3/4 lengths.

If Mister Triester runs back to that race, he should be right there with Honest Man in the final furlong.

Also capable is Stonehouse, who wired a field at this distance two races ago, and Rector, who looks to benefit from the return of Robby Albarado, who piloted him to victory two races ago.