04/02/2004 12:00AM

Asmussen duo looks invincible

Email

SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - This year, for the first time, trainer Steve Asmussen has kept a string of horses here, and the results have been amazing.

With 18 stalls on the grounds, and a shuttle system between his training center in Laredo, Texas, and his stables at Sam Houston and Fair Grounds, Asmussen leads all trainers at Sunland with 51 wins from 175 starters, 15 more winners than Henry Dominguez in second place.

But Asmussen has won only two stakes, compared to six last year. In Sunday's $100,000-added Harry Henson Handicap at a mile for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, Asmussen looks almost unbeatable with an uncoupled entry of Cielo Girl, who won this race last year, and Academic Angel. The pair are co-highweighted at 123 pounds.

Academic Angel, owned by Asmussen's brother, Cash, turned in one of the most impressive performances of the meet on Feb. 22, winning a classified allowance by almost seven lengths with jockey Ken Tohill never asking her for run. She was timed in 1:35.49, only .07 off the track record. A daughter of Breeders' Cup Mile winner Royal Academy, Academic Angel is sure to go off a heavy favorite. She left two of her Sunday opponents, Runawayfun and Sideways, in her wake on Feb. 22.

Cielo Girl drew post 5, which sets her up nicely for a stalking trip. She comes off a win in Delta's Sweetheart Stakes, a seven-furlong race run at two turns. Earlier this meet she won a one-mile classified allowance race by a half-length. In between those wins she was a weakening sixth in the 1 1/16-mile Houston Distaff Handicap, leaving the impression she may be suspect at Sunday's distance.

Jeremy Beasley will have the call.

Players looking for a price horse in the exacta or trifecta should consider Sexy Boots. She returned from a layoff on Feb. 24 to score in a tough allowance race, then was fifth, beaten less than five lengths, in the Santa Teresa Handicap on March 14. Leading rider Casey Lambert has the mount at 118.