Asmussen Eyes 8th TTA Sales Futurity at Lone Star, But Must Beat Miss Missile

(June 7, 2007) - As trainer Steve Asmussen saddles Curlin in the Belmont Park paddock before the start of Saturday's 139th Belmont Stakes, he'll simultaneously attempt to win the fillies division of the $93,530 Texas Thoroughbred Association Sales Futurity at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas for a record eighth time in the last nine years.

The 41-year-old conditioner, who has amassed a record 673 Lone Star victories over the last decade including 54 local stakes wins, qualified four 2-year-old fillies to Saturday's five-furlong race, headed by unbeaten Valid Lilly.

Despite his impressive record and credentials, Asmussen won't have the post time favorite because Miss Missile, the swift Kentucky-bred owned and trained by Charlie Smith, is clearly the horse to beat. She'll break from post No. 3 as the 7-5 morning line choice in the field of 10 two-year-old fillies.

Purchased for $35,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Texas Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, Miss Missile has been nothing short of spectacular in her only two starts. On April 28 in her career debut, she blitzed her competition at odds of 19-1 by 4 ¾ lengths while running the fastest 4 ½ furlongs in Lone Star Park history with a time of :51.18. "I was confident she'd win first time out, but I sure didn't imagine a track record," said Smith, the 58-year-old who has trained horses for two decades.

Miss Missile's encore was a one-length score over Maileys Cat while clocking five furlongs over "sloppy" going in :58.61 - the fastest of three TTA Sales Futurity trials on May 24. Ever since the two eye-popping races, bloodstock agents have offered large sums to purchase the filly, but Smith doesn't appear interested just yet.

"She handles her speed really well and has a nice stride," Smith explained. "Only time will tell, but I'm confident that she'll be able to carry her speed down the road as the distances get longer. With her gait and breeding (by Golden Missile out of the Silver Deputy mare Whistling Bullet), I don't see any reason why she won't be able to handle a distance of ground, say between a mile and a mile-and-a-sixteenth."

Miss Missile's May 24 trial victory was awarded an 88 Beyer Speed Figure by the folks at Daily Racing Form - the highest figure ever given to a 2-year-old filly that raced at Lone Star Park's Spring Thoroughbred Season. "I hope she can hang a higher one next time," Smith said. "I'm anticipating that she'll run the best race of her life on Saturday."

Here's the complete field for the 15th running of the $93,530 fillies division of the TTA Sales Futurity (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): 4. Shedoesrock (Richard Eramia, Michelle Lovell, 20-1); 1. Soar Above (Glen Murphy, Steve Asmussen, 20-1); 5. Miss Missile (Justin Shepherd, Charlie Smith, 7-5); 2. Valid Lilly (Luis Quinonez, Asmussen, 7-2); 3. Maileys Cat (Ramsey Zimmerman, Bret Calhoun, 2-1); 6. Glitter's Forum (Cliff Berry, Calhoun, 6-1); 3X. Imahonkytonkgirl (Larry Taylor, Calhoun, 2-1); 7. Stephen's Crown (Benito Morales, Charles Haverkamp, 20-1); 2B. Swamp Gator (Quincy Hamilton, Asmussen, 7-2); and 1A. Value System (Jaime Theriot, Asmussen, 20-1).

There is a trio of coupled entries in the race. Soar Above and Value System will run as a Will Farish-owned entry. Valid Lilly and Swamp Gator will run as a Heiligbrodt Racing Stable-owned entry. Mailey's Cat and Imahonkytonkgirl will be coupled because Bobby Beck has an ownership stake in both horses. All entrants passed through Texas sales rings earlier in their career and finished in the top four positions in May 24 trial races. Siphon Rio and Tricky Texan, who both qualified, were not entered in the final.

The fillies division will be run as Race 9 at approximately 5:12 p.m. CT (13 minutes before the simulcast of the Belmont Stakes) on an 11-race program that begins at 1:35 p.m. CT.

In the $95,130 colts and geldings division, to be run as Race 10 at approximately 5:52 p.m. CT, Kinetic Motion, who hails from the Allen Milligan barn, was made the 7-5 early favorite after his convincing 3 ¾-length debut victory in his May 25 trial. Justin Shepherd, 20, is scheduled to ride both Miss Missile and Kinetic Motion.

Here's the complete field for the 18th running of the $95,130 colts and gelding division of the TTA Sales Futurity (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): 1. Righteous Brother (Luis Quinonez, Steve Asmussen, 8-1); 2. Groomsman (Glen Murphy, Steve Asmussen, 9-5); 1A. Paldif (Cliff Berry, Steve Asmussen, 8-1); 3. Silverback Cat (Quincy Hamilton, Danny Pish, 10-1); 4. Bill Jr. (Filemon Rodriguez, Emilio Barrera, 30-1); 5. Stormy Date (Ramsey Zimmerman, Bret Calhoun, 6-1); 6. Piper Cat (Bryan McNeil, Bob Young, 30-1); 7. Call Transfer (Tony McNeil, Cheryl Asmussen, 12-1); 2B. Namesake (Jaime Theriot, Steve Asmussen, 9-5); and 8. Kinetic Motion (Justin Shepherd, Allen Milligan, 7-5).

There are two entries. Righteous Brother and Paldif will run as a Heiligbrodt Racing Stable-owned entry. Will Farish has part-ownership in both Groomsman and Namesake. Stormy Wedding and Wishinski qualified but were not entered in the final.


FAVORITES WINNING BIG - Favorites at Lone Star Park had won 40.4% of the races through the first eight weeks of the 16-week season, including 44.3% over the last two weeks.

WICKED WEATHER - When jockeys opted not to ride over the Lone Star Park turf course Sunday after early morning rain, it brought the total number of lost turf races at the meet to 34. As a result, late scratches have totaled 266 (an average of 8.1 per day). At this time last year (with four additional racing dates and 38 more races), there were 13 lost turf races and 204 scratches (an average of 5.5 per day). Thanks to a deluge of rain this season (8.34 inches in May, up 62% from the typical 5.15 inches), only 13 of the 33 racing dates thus far had both a "fast" main track and "firm" turf course. Despite the rough run with the weather, Lone Star's average field size per race is slightly up from 8.53 in 2006 to 8.56 this season. Also, Lone Star is racing four days a week (Thursday-Sunday) this season compared to five days a week (Wednesday-Sunday) last year. As a result, the season is extended a week and will conclude July 29.

WEATHER FORECAST - This week's National Weather Service forecast looks promising. High temperatures will be in the low 90s throughout the week with nighttime lows in the low 70s. There's a slight 30-percent chance of thunderstorms Friday. At Elmont, N.Y., there's a 30-percent chance of showers and thunderstorms overnight Friday and into Saturday in advance of the Belmont Stakes. High temps in New York will be near 81.

BERRY CLOSES GAP ON ZIMM - With leading rider Ramsey Zimmerman on the sidelines last week serving a seven-day suspension for his May 24 ride aboard Imahonkytonkgirl that resulted in a disqualification, Cliff Berry closed the gap in the Lone Star Park jockey standings. Berry, Lone Star's two-time defending riding champ, won seven races during Week 8 of the 16-week season to pull within one of Zimmerman, 38 wins to 37. Richard Eramia is third with 34 winners, followed by Quincy Hamilton's 32 (the hottest Lone Star jockey over the last two weeks with 14 victories since May 24), Luis Quinonez's 28, Justin Shepherd's 26, Glen Murphy and Larry Taylor's 21, Eguard Tejera's 14 and Bobby Walker Jr.'s 10.

LOCKE LEADS TRAINERS LAST WEEK - John Locke led all trainers with five winners last week (May 31-June 3) and increased his season win total to 18, good for fifth in the Lone Star trainer standings. Leader Bret Calhoun won with four of his seven starters to widen his lead over Cody Autrey, 35 wins to 27. Perennial local training champ Steve Asmussen is third with 22 victories, one more than Danny Pish, who is fourth. Behind Locke are Chris Hartman and Donnie K. Von Hemel's 13, Jorge Lara's 12, Dallas Keen's eight, and Cheryl Asmussen, Jack Bruner, Brent Davidson, Randy Mayfield and Allen Milligan's six.

ROUGH RUN FOR AUTREY - Ever since Smoke Mountain won the $50,000 Ford Express Stakes on May 19, trainer Cody Autrey has had a run of unfortunate luck. The usually high-percentage conditioner will begin Week 9 of the 16-week season with only one winner from his last 18 starters since May 20. His lone winner in that span came May 27 with What Attitude ($2.80) - one of 11 post time favorites. During the streak he's had and six seconds and one third. The losses include favorites Denim's Gone (second at 4-5 on May 20); East Texas Red (ninth at 9-5 on May 25); Front Nine (second at 4-5 on May 26); Sweet Will and Valid Sprinter (third and fourth as a 2-5 entry on May 26); Wild Roll (seventh at 6-5 on May 27); Thanks Mr G and Speed Source (second and third as a 4-5 entry on May 27); Wacos Cutie (second at 7-5 on June 1); and Denim's Gone (third at 4-5 on June 2). Overall, Autrey was second in the Lone Star trainer standing with 27 victories, seven back of leader Bret Calhoun.

KOMAX BRINGS MUNDELL STREAK TO FOUR STRAIGHT - After starting the meet 0-for-3, owner Brian Mundell of El Paso, Texas has won with each of his last four starters since May 20, all with trainer Chris Hartman. His winners were Abbey Court ($3.60) on May 20, En El Fuego ($7) on May 24, Super Danny ($11.20) on May 26 and Komax ($4) on Saturday. Komax, a 9-year-old Arizona-bred gelding, won his fifth consecutive start and second for Mundell, who claimed him for $25,000 at Sunland Park on March 30. In Saturday's eighth race, the son of Society Max ran six furlongs over a "good" track in 1:11.17, which was good for a 90 Beyer Speed Figure. Komax has now won 21 of his 49 starts and $472,285. He's also won seven stakes in his career that began with an 11-length triumph in 1:09 at Colorado's Arapahoe Park on June 30, 2001. In 2002, Komax finished third in the Grade III Los Angeles Handicap at Hollywood Park behind champion Kona Gold. Since turning 8, he's won 11 of 15 starts and $221,672. Mundell and Hartman are scheduled to start Sitkasam, the 9-5 favorite in Thursday night's third race.

HALTER WINS THREE RACES LAST WEEK - Kevin Halter of DeSoto, Texas led all owners with three victories last week, all with trainer John Locke and jockey Richard Eramia. They teamed to win with Dream America ($3) on Thursday and Tates Mandate ($6) and Eagle Two Hundred ($4.20) on Friday. Overall, Halter has won with four of 18 starters at the meet. Heflin and Driver Racing LLC remain atop the standings with 21 wins, but have slowed their record pace with one victory from their last 14 starters since May 19. They need six wins to equal the Lone Star Park single season record of 27 set by the Kagele Brothers in the spring of 2004. Jan Hayes of Dallas is second with seven wins, followed by four-way tie for third between Tom Durant, Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt, Carl Moore and Clarence Scharbauer Jr. with six wins apiece.

LIL HANNA BECOMES FIRST THREE-TIME WINNER AT THE MEET - The 6-year-old Texas-bred mare Lil Hanna became the first three-time winner of the meet when she prevailed in Friday's sixth race, a state-bred $7,500 claiming event over six furlongs. She won at the same level April 27 and against open company May 18. The daughter of Lil Honcho, who won Friday for trainer John Locke, has been claimed in each of those starts. She'll go back to the barn of Cody Autrey and Helfin and Driver Racing, who won with Lil Hanna on May 18. Twenty-seven other horses have two wins at the meet.

TEMPTING DATE HEASDS THURSDAY FEATURE - Tempting Date, winner of the $50,000 Czaria Handicap at Sunland Park in her last start on April 29, heads Thursday night's featured eighth race, a $34,000 allowance at five furlongs on turf. The 5-year-old mare, who hails from the Chris Hartman barn, also won the 2005 Cal Cup Distaff Handicap and 2006 Bold Ego Handicap. Leading rider Ramsey Zimmerman has the call.

ADMIRAL'S ARCH TRIES TURF - In Friday night's featured ninth race, Admiral's Arch, who finished third in last year's Grade III Lone Star Derby, will attempt to land his first victory since capturing the 2006 Northern Spur Breeders' Cup Stakes at Oaklawn Park. The 4-year-old High Yield gelding from the Steve Asmussen barn tries turf for the first time in a second level allowance at one mile on grass. Also on the card, Davids Expectation, campaigned by Heflin and Driver Racing and trained by Cody Autrey, will shoot for his fourth straight win in the eighth race, a $27,000 allowance/optional claiming event ($35,000 tag) over six furlongs.

NATIONAL HANDICAPPING CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT - The deadline to enter Lone Star Park's Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship Qualifying Tournament is Friday, June 15. The top three finishers in the two-day tournament scheduled for Saturday, June 16 and Sunday, June 17 will earn berths to the NHC IX finals in Las Vegas in January. Plus, more than $10,000 in prize money is up for grabs. The entry fee is $250 per person or just $150 "Star Player Rewards" members. To participate, contact Kristen Foster at (972) 237-1134 or <>. There are already more than 160 people signed up to compete. Last year, there were 123 entries, headed by tournament winner David Muse of Benbrook, Texas.

PARTY AT THE PARK - Live country music by Chris Miller and drink specials highlight Friday's "Party at the Park" in the Courtyard of Champions from 7-11 p.m. A team from 96.3 KSCS will also be on hand for a promotional appearance.

SENIOR CITIZEN'S DAY - Sunday is Senior Citizen's Day where all patrons age 62 and up will receive free general admission with proof of identification.

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