12/20/2008 1:00AM

Asmussen, Bridgmohan pair for two

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NEW ORLEANS - Steve Asmussen has been sending his horses to rating school, and two of his star pupils showed the results of their lessons in stakes racing Saturday at the Fair Grounds, with Jimmy Simms taking the Woodchoper and Storm Treasure winning the Bonapaw.

In the Woodchopper, a mile turf race for 3-year-olds, it was Jimmy Simms who rated, sitting back off the pace set by My Boy Charlie. At the top of the stretch he was in second, two lengths back, but Jimmy Simms accelerated as My Boy Charlie faded and drew off to score by 3 1/4 lengths. Evade closed strongly to finish second, and longshot Acting Zippy re-rallied to finish third.

"He's learning to accept what we are trying to get him to do," said Scott Blasi, Steve Asmussen's assistant trainer. "He is learning to relax off of other horses and he's just starting to mature mentally."

Ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, Jimmy Simms went a mile on firm turf in 1:39.21 and paid $7.80 to win.

"He's going the right direction," Blasi said, "but he'll have to step up and compete with older horses."

Owned by Elisabeth Alexander and Burr Travis, Jimmy Simms earned $36,000 for the win and ran his lifetime record to 3 wins from 7 starts. He has finished in the money in 6 of 7 races.

Bonapaw: Storm Treasure finishes strong

Storm Treasure looked like he was too far back at midstretch but closed powerfully to win the $60,000 Bonapaw, beating favorite Chamberlain Bridge by 1 1/2 lengths.

"It was visually impressive," Blasi said of Storm Treasure's closing kick. "Horses don't finish up much faster than that."

After having Storm Treasure rate for the first half-mile, Bridgmohan sent him in midstretch. Storm Treasure found another gear, tackling Chamberlain Bridge and pulling away.

Storm Treasure went 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.24 over the firm turf course and paid $6.20 to win as the second choice.

Before the race, the worry was that the lack of pace would hamper Storm Treasure's chances.

"Shaun and I talked in the paddock about the lack of pace," Blasi said. "He broke good for us and had himself much closer, with less work to do at the end."

Chamberlain Bridge held on for second, and it was another four lengths back to John's Road.

Storm Treause is owned by Carl Moore.

Esplanade: Secret Gypsy pulls away

On paper, Secret Gypsy simply was too fast for her opponents in the $60,000 Esplanade Stakes. Out on the racetrack, it was much of the same. Pressing a fast early pace in the 5 1/2-furlong sprint, Secret Gypsy took over the lead at the top of the stretch and sped to a four-length win over Kalookan Dancer, stopping the timer in a snappy 1:03.22.

"She has such deceptive speed," said winning rider Robby Albarado, who earlier on the card had ridden Leigh McLovin to victory for trainer Ronny Werner. "She's so fast. I felt like I was in a canter."

Well, this particular canter included an opening quarter-mile in 21.97 seconds and a half in 44.94, and it was too much for the other pacesetters: Magnetic Miss wound up last of 10, while Kalookan Dancer actually held well, finishing second by a length over late-running Precious Kiss.

Secret Gypsy, owned by Richland Hills Stable and John Kuehl, paid just $3.20 to win and captured her second straight race by open lengths. Last month at Churchill, Secret Gypsy won a seven-furlong allowance race by more than eight lengths. The 3-year-old filly set a track record for 5 1/2 furlongs in her career debut during the 2007 Saratoga meet and may well be reaching career-best form for Werner.

- additional reporting by Marcus Hersh