06/10/2009 11:00PM

Asiatic Boy fills mystery role

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Barbara D. Livingston
Asiatic Boy will get Lasix for the first time in the Stephen Foster.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - He is the X factor in the Stephen Foster equation. Asiatic Boy has done enough in his 15-race career to earn more than $3 million, but how will that compute to his first race on American soil?

Kiaran McLaughlin, the former D. Wayne Lukas assistant who assumed the training of Asiatic Boy in late April for Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al-Maktoum, said race tactics ultimately will fall to jockey Alan Garcia when the 6-year-old Argentine-bred breaks from post 7 in a field of eight older horses in the Grade 1 Foster at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

"We don't really know what to expect for the first three furlongs of the race," said McLaughlin. "He came from off the pace in Dubai, but we seem to put more speed in our horses - you know, the Wayne Lukas school. There are two or three others in there that have speed, so I'd say we'll probably be stalking, although we'll leave it up to Alan."

For nearly three years before being sent to McLaughlin in New York, Asiatic Boy had been trained by Mike DeKock in Dubai, where the diuretic Lasix is not permitted for use to prevent horses from internal bleeding. McLaughlin said DeKock told him: "Lasix is going to help the horse."

"That's the direct quote I got from the previous trainer," McLaughlin said. "Whether the horse was experiencing bleeding issues that kept him from racing more often, I don't know, but I'm assuming getting Lasix for the first time Saturday will help him."

McLaughlin said Asiatic Boy has trained exceptionally well in recent weeks at Belmont Park, from where the horse was shipped, along with stablemate Florentino, late Wednesday to Churchill.

"He hasn't missed a day since we got him," said McLaughlin, 48. "He's a really neat horse to train. People point to him and ask, 'Who's that?' He's that kind of horse. He's gone very well in every work, done everything right."

McLaughlin, who grew up in Lexington, Ky., is based primarily on the East Coast but has enjoyed some of his greatest moments in racing at Churchill. He won the 2006 Breeders' Cup Classic with Invasor, won the 2007 Foster with Flashy Bull, and nearly won the 2005 Kentucky Derby when 71-1 shot Closing Argument lost by a half-length to Giacomo.

He is hoping Asiatic Boy provides his next Churchill thrill. The horse clearly is a talent: one of his seven career wins was a 9 1/2-length romp in the 2007 UAE Derby, and he was second to Curlin in the 2008 Dubai World Cup.

"I'm very excited about having this horse in our barn," said McLaughlin. "From what I can tell, he's a top-class horse. We'll get our first look Saturday."

Borel called that one

Before he became famous for more important feats, Calvin Borel was known in racing circles for occasionally lighting up the tote board in major stakes.

Borel won the 1991 Super Derby aboard Free Spirit's Joy at 27-1, the 1993 Arkansas Derby on Rockamundo at 108-1, the 1999 Kentucky Cup Classic on Da Devil at 65-1, and the 2006 Stephen Foster on Seek Gold at 91-1.

Borel has been the face of racing in recent weeks after riding Mine That Bird (a 50-1 shot, no less) to win the Kentucky Derby and Rachel Alexandra to win the Preakness.

Seek Gold was trained by Ron Moquett.

"My recollection of the Foster three years ago was Calvin coming back after working the horse 10 days before the race and telling me, 'We've got to go for the big one, believe me, he'll win if I take him off the pace,' " Moquett said this week from Delaware Park. "Calvin was right."

Seek Gold was last of nine at the eighth pole before launching an incredible outside run to defeat Perfect Drift by a nose. Seek Gold, now 9, has become a riding horse on Moquett's farm in Oklahoma.

Borel will ride Researcher, 4-1 on the morning line, in the 28th Foster on Saturday.

Family ties to Foster

Before the Stephen Foster became a high-profile race won by such glamour horses as Victory Gallop (1999), Street Cry (2002), Saint Liam (2005), and Curlin (2008), it was just another $100,000 stakes at the Churchill spring meet.

But for Jere R. Smith Jr., some of those older editions of the Foster are treasured heirlooms in the family. Smith's late father, Jere R. Smith Sr., won the race two years in a row (1994-95) with Recoup the Cash. While the elder Smith was an icon on the Chicago circuit, where he won 12 training titles before his death in January 2004, those back-to-back wins in Kentucky were among the proudest of his career.

"My dad was pretty hard to move out of Chicago," recalled Smith Jr., who recently returned to train in Kentucky following a five-year stint in Saudi Arabia. "But after he'd won those races, he'd say, 'I went down there and beat those hardboots at their own game.' "

One other horse, Vodika Collins, captured the Foster twice, winning it for trainer Forrest Kaelin in 1982-83, when the race was worth just $50,000-added.

Purses take hits

One of the unfortunate results of the downward business trends affecting the Kentucky racing circuit in general and Churchill in particular is the decrease in purse money for the Foster and the four other graded stakes here Saturday.

Since 1998, the Foster has offered a $750,000 purse, but this year, the race is worth $600,000. (Last year, the purse was $1 million, but that was because of bonus incentives to lure the eventual winner, Curlin.)

In addition, the Fleur de Lis has gone from $300,000 to $200,000, and both the Jefferson Cup and Regret have gone from $200,000 to $150,000. The Northern Dancer, a $200,000 race from 2004-07, is down to $100,000 after having a gross purse of $190,925 last year.

Temporary lighting to get early test

The first night racing program in Churchill history is all set for next Friday, when an 11-race program starts at 6 p.m. Eastern. Track officials are expecting an ontrack crowd of 15,000 or more. General admission is $10.

As a test run of the temporary lighting system, training will open at 5 a.m. Monday and Tuesday, one hour earlier than normal.

Subsequent night programs also will be held June 26 and July 2. Admission on those nights is $6.