03/19/2002 12:00AM

Another Asmussen goodie


NEW ORLEANS - That little Triple Crown nominee symbol affixed to the past-performance lines of five of the eight 3-year-olds entered in the eighth race Thursday at Fair Grounds is becoming less and less relevant as the year unfolds. These are still first-level allowance horses, and the Kentucky Derby is less than seven weeks away.

But dispense with Derby dreams for now. In any case, trainer Steve Asmussen, who will saddle the likely favorite, Forty Nine Deeds, has enough 3-year-old stakes horses going at the moment not to force this one into being something he's not.

Asmussen nearly won the Louisiana Derby for the second straight year when Easyfromthegitgo finished second by a nose to Repent.

Easyfromthegitgo might make his next start in the Blue Grass Stakes, while Asmussen has at least two horses for the Rebel Stakes this weekend at Oaklawn Park.

Forty Nine Deeds might not be too far behind those horses right now, judging from the race he ran here March 4. The Richard Dutrow-trained One Tuff Fox set a fast pace that day but he never stopped, at least not enough to be caught. Racing in tandem, Forty Nine Deeds and Crittenden closed relentlessly in the stretch, but neither could reach the leader, Crittenden losing by a half-length, Forty Nine Deeds another half behind him.

It was another eight lengths back to the fourth-place horse and the race looked fast. Indeed, the 98 Beyer Speed Figure that Forty Nine Deeds recorded was among highest earned at this meet by any 3-year-old.

Forty Nine Deeds, a bargain $10,000 yearling selected for purchase and owned by Asmussen's father, Keith, has finished third in all three of his starts since he won his maiden in his career debut. But labeling him a hanger is premature. He made a run at the exceptionally fast Bob's Image in his first start with winners, and paid the price late, fading to third. And in his second start with winners, Forty Nine Deeds was caught behind a slow pace, rallied, but lost by a half-length to the early leader, finishing a nose behind his stablemate, Windward Passage, one of the Rebel horses.

Trainer Mike Stidham, who beat Forty Nine Deeds with Crittenden last time, might have the best shot at him again. Change the Record switches back to dirt after flopping on turf in his first start outside the maiden ranks. In late December, Change the Record won his maiden by a nose over the Asmussen-trained Unbridled Trick. "He'll need to improve to win, but he's training well," Stidham said.

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