11/05/2009 1:00AM

Asmussen duo can be had


NEW ORLEANS - With richer 2-year-old stakes scheduled for Friday night at Delta Downs, and with the ongoing Churchill Downs fall meet focusing on 2-year-olds, the two $60,000 2-year-old stakes carded for Saturday at Fair Grounds probably were in trouble from the beginning. The Old Hickory for males and the Pontalba for females each drew only six entries, and both races could scratch down to shorter fields come post time.

The Old Hickory includes two horses from the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen, and both look overqualified for this allowance-class listed stakes. Enumerate came within a neck of winning the Grade 2 Sanford at Saratoga, and more recently was again second by a neck in the $192,000 NATC Futurity at Monmouth Park. His debut win came over five furlongs at Churchill Downs in June 28, and while Enumerate has worked twice since shipping into Fair Grounds, he looks like a precocious type with potentially severe distance limitations. If pushed early by a horse like Comedero, Enumerate could prove vulnerable in the long Fair Grounds stretch.

Asmussen's other entrant, Western Smoke, already is a four-time winner this year, but shows no works since winning the Grade 3 Sapling on Sept. 5 at Monmouth Park. If he runs, he may be favored over his stablemate.

Mt. McSauba posted a swift bullet work here last Saturday morning for trainer Al Stall, but was cross-entered in one of the Delta races Friday, and was considered likely to start there, Stall said.

Worth considering at a potentially playable price is Auspicious Risk, who managed a debut win over Arlington Polytrack this past summer, but looked like a better dirt horse winning a sloppy-track Hawthorne allowance race last month. Auspicious Risk can rally from off the pace, which may work to his advantage Saturday.

Synthetic and turf starts somewhat obscure Vito Filitto's decent dirt form, and he, too, may have an outside shot.

The Pontalba, the filly race, abounds with questions of racing surface: Only Certain Pride and Right to Rule, both from the Asmussen barn, have even raced on dirt. The two entrants from trainer James Hodges, Blading Gold Ring and Red Hot Buddha, both ran exclusively on the Louisiana Downs turf course this past summer. Greeley's Rocket, trained by Bret Calhoun, has grass starts at Penn National and Churchill, and a pair of races on the Tapeta surface at Presque Isle Downs. Passion Tamer made four starts on Arlington's Polytrack this past summer.

Passion Tamer looks interesting, however. She is by Yes It's True, whose offspring historically have done best in dirt sprints, and the filly has worked four times on dirt since the end of the Arlington meet for trainer Jerry Quinn. Passion Tamer's half-mile drill in 47.80 seconds here Monday was the fastest of 45 works at the distance that morning.

Both fillies from the Asmussen barn come out of the massive operation's more minor string at Remington Park. Certain Pride eked out a maiden win there before finishing third of six in a Zia Park stakes, while Right to Rule most recently was third in Remington sprint stakes.

Greeley's Rocket, the Calhoun filly, just finished second in the $100,000 Presque Isle Debutante, and would be a factor if her synthetic form transfers to dirt.