07/04/2007 11:00PM

Asmussen has all bases covered


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Perhaps someday in the future, winning won't come so easily for Steve Asmussen. But as things stand now, Asmussen has life by the throat, and he is showing no apparent sign of letting up.

Two Grade 3 stakes for 2-year-olds will be run Saturday at Asmussen's current main base of operations, Churchill Downs, and he not only has the likely favorite in both races, but capable backups as well. Asmussen will start Rated Fiesty as a solid choice in the $100,000 Debutante Stakes while having Wonderful Luck for insurance, and his trio of Hargill, Kodiak Kowboy, and Crackalackin look like a formidable team in the $150,000 Bashford Manor Stakes. Each of the six-furlong races drew eight starters.

For Asmussen, who set a North American record in 2004 when he sent out 555 winners, the aggressive numbers are par for the course - although, having nominated 10 fillies to the Debutante and nine colts and geldings to the Bashford Manor, he conceivably could have dealt himself even stronger hands. Understandably, he is optimistic.

As for the Debutante, "we've got two excellent fillies who complement each other," said Asmussen, who into Thursday had sent out 40 winners at this meet, three short of the track mark. "Rated Fiesty is very fast, and Wonderful Luck already has shown she wants to come from off it. They're both coming off very good last races."

Rated Fiesty earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure - extremely high for a 2-year-old in May - when she captured the five-furlong Kentucky Breeders' Cup Stakes during Kentucky Derby Week here. Wonderful Luck, who was soundly beaten in that race, rebounded by rallying to win the Cinderella Stakes at Hollywood Park as an odds-on favorite in her lone subsequent outing.

Asmussen said the early competition that American County, trained by Dale Romans, might provide Rated Fiesty makes him feel better about Wonderful Luck being in the field. "It's another eighth of a mile since their last meeting," he said.

Besides American County and the Asmussen duo, the Debutante field includes Love Buzz, Flight Ruler, Miss Missile, Kadira, and Dreabons Legacy.

An hour after the Debutante, Asmussen and his longtime assistant, Scott Blasi, will tag-team the saddling duties of their charges for the Bashford Manor. Hargill and Kodiak Kowboy, both impressive maiden winners earlier in the meet, might have an edge over Crackalackin, who won in maiden-claiming company in his only start.

"I didn't really have many other options with Crackalackin," Asmussen said.

Kodiak Kowboy, a maiden winner here May 26, not only is the lone starter in the field to have won a stakes race, but even to have run in one. A son of Posse, Kodiak Kowboy captured the Juneo17 Victoria at Woodbine as an odds-on choice.

Aside from the three Asmussen runners, the Bashford Manor field consists of Little Nick, Motovato, Ascot Hall, Blackberry Road, and Dr. Nick.

The 107th Debutante is carded as the seventh race, while the 106th Bashford Manor is the ninth. Three allowances (races 3, 8, and 10) also are on tap on a 10-race program, which begins at 1:15 p.m. Eastern.

Saturday is the penultimate day of the 52-day Churchill spring meet. The closing-day feature, the $150,000 Locust Grove Handicap, helps bring down the curtain on Sunday. A field of six fillies and mares was entered in the 1 1/8-mile turf race: Eyes on Eddy, Mauralakana, Countess Scala, Lemons Forever, Quite a Bride, and Quiet Royal.