11/18/2004 12:00AM

Asmussen has record in sight

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If it's not already, it would make a great Las Vegas bet: When will Steve Asmussen break Jack Van Berg's record of 496 trainer wins in a calendar year? Predicting the particular race is tough, but it would be movie-like if Asmussen was in a position to break the record in the $100,000 Star of Texas on Saturday night at Sam Houston Race Park.

A 1 1/16-mile race, the Star of Texas is the richest of eight Texas-bred stakes that along with the $150,000 Texan Juvenile for open company make up the $625,000 Texas Champions Day. Asmussen's representative in the Star of Texas is Desert Darby, who dead-heated for the win in the race last year.

As for aligning the record and the race, even Asmussen thinks it will be tough. Before Thursday's races, Asmussen needed 10 wins to tie the mark. Earlier this week, he underscored how difficult it would be to achieve the record by Saturday.

The record will come soon enough, and at the very least Desert Darby has a chance to push the bid along. He won the Star of Texas last year in a dead heat with Record Assembly and comes into this race following a second-place finish to Goosey Moose in the $100,000 Assault at Lone Star Park on Oct. 23

"It was a tough beat," said Asmussen. "It was just unfortunate not to win the bob. He's just as solid as they come."

Desert Darby had won the Assault before, in June 2002, and has also captured the $100,000 Texas Hall of Fame Stakes at Retama. Overall, he has won nine races and $404,760 for owner and co-breeder Ken Quirk. Desert Darby will be ridden by Donnie Meche.

Record Assembly and Goosey Moose make for interesting rivals. Both have speed and figure to be fighting off Desert Darby late. Goosey Moose, who scored a neck win in a turf race Sept. 22, edged Record Assembly by a nose in the Assault and will be shooting for his third straight victory Saturday.

"He had the opportunity to get beat his last couple of races, but he really dug in and fought," said Danny Pish, who trains Goosey Moose and has given the mount to Roman Chapa.

Native Annie perfect at Sam Houston

Native Annie, who has won her last two starts, returns to Sam Houston for the $75,000 Martanza for fillies and mares. Native Annie has won all three of her starts at Sam Houston, including two divisions of the Texas Stallion Stakes. She will face nine others in the Martanza, a one-mile race that also drew Jester Rehab, who is trained by Asmussen.

Native Annie won the $75,000 Allen Bogan at Lone Star Park and an optional claiming race at Arlington in her last two starts. Carlos Marquez Jr. has the mount for Stonerside and trainer Michael Stidham.

A jigsaw puzzle in Spirit of Texas

Charming Socialite, Front Nine, Term Sheet, and Nuttyboom are difficult to separate in the $50,000 Spirit of Texas, which is one of the best races on the card. The six-furlong sprint also drew stakes winners Leo's Last Hurrahy and Won C C.

Charming Socialite will be cutting back to one turn, and the last time he raced under such conditions he won the $67,000 Alysheba over Bwana Charlie. Bwana Charlie went on in his next start to finish fourth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Larry Taylor has the mount for trainer Bill Pettit.

* Asmussen has trained the last five winners of the $50,000 Bara Lass and has three chances to keep his streak alive in the seven-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies: Tuned In, who is a half-sister to Charlie's Beau, Berdelia, and Timber Jones.

* Countryfide moves to the statebred ranks and back to dirt for the $50,000 Yellow Rose after finishing a big second in the $40,000 Majorette. She has since worked a bullet 47.60 at her Louisiana Downs base for trainer Morris Nicks.

* Expect Will, who was second in a sprint stakes at Lone Star last out to Leaving on My Mind, the favorite for the Texan Juvenile, will run in the $50,000 Groovy over seven furlongs. He is trained by Asmussen.

* Twilight Vision moves back to the statebred ranks for the $50,000 Richard King on turf after finishing fourth in a tough starter during the International Jockey Championship at Lone Star. Trainer John Locke has given the mount to Corey Lanerie, who takes over from Edgar Prado.

* Hay Madison, third to Native Annie in the Bogan, will move back to turf for the $50,000 San Jacinto. Chapa has the mount for trainer Barry Germany.

* The forecast for Saturday is for isolated thundershowers and a high of 80 degrees and a low of 65.