06/24/2004 12:00AM

Amoss making his title run


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The gauntlet has been laid down. Tom Amoss came out firing Wednesday at Churchill Downs by sending out three winners, then said the following morning that he fully expects "a dogfight" for the balance of the spring meet among himself and the other two men seeking the training title.

The three Amoss winners were Toliver ($10.40) in the fourth, Anna Em ($2.60) in the ninth, and Aquiess ($4) in the 10th. Amoss also sent out Sweet Baby Jane to a sixth-place finish as the favorite in the seventh race.

The training triple gave Amoss 25 wins on the meet, one more than Dale Romans and two more than Steve Asmussen. While Amoss readily acknowledges that his lead quite possibly will be short-lived, he said he is "conceding nothing" during the final days of a meet that ends July 5.

"All three of us are extremely competitive," said Amoss. "This is going to be a lot of fun. If those other guys say that winning the title doesn't matter to them, don't believe them. We're all trying to win. I don't think it's any coincidence that all three of us won races" Wednesday, with Romans taking the fifth with I Will Survive ($11.40) and Asmussen the eighth with Cat Buster ($11).

While Romans and especially Asmussen have a larger number of horses under their care at Churchill and other stabling facilities, Amoss may have a certain advantage in that he has no set agenda for when Churchill ends. After making Kentucky his primary base in the mid-1990's, Amoss went to Saratoga for two summers but decided that such a move did not work for him. "We'll stay here in Louisville all summer and just ship to Ellis, Arlington, maybe a couple to Saratoga," he said.

In the meantime, Amoss will keep trying to replicate the kind of afternoon he enjoyed here Wednesday. "It really was a great day for us," he said. "No matter what happens after this, it's been a great meet. If you'd looked at my statistics at the end of February," when Amoss was slumping at Fair Grounds, "you'd have thought, 'Oh my gosh, this guy's having the worst year of his career.' But obviously things have turned around in a big way, and like they say, I'm going to ride the wave all the way to the beach."

Hernandez may be Louisiana-bound

Shane Sellers and Fred Aime will be among the handful of Churchill jockeys and their agents to go to Saratoga this summer. But Brian Hernandez Jr., the young apprentice for whom Aime has been working for the past month or so, will be riding elsewhere, said Aime.

"We're still working on where," said Aime.

Aime said one possibility is Evangeline Downs in Louisiana, where Hernandez grew up and began his career. In any case, Aime and Hernandez are planning on rejoining forces when the Turfway fall meet begins in September.

Sand Springs sitting on big race

Sand Springs once was a head case but has matured beautifully during her 4-year-old season, and trainer Tony Reinstedler said he "absolutely couldn't be happier with her" as the filly prepares to run Saturday in the Grade 3 Locust Grove Handicap.

"I actually think you're going to see her best race of the season this weekend," said Reinstedler. "She is doing just super coming up to this. I think she's going to give a great effort."