05/15/2008 11:00PM

Asmussen loaded for Sunday


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Crimson Ore's victory in the second race at Churchill Downs on Thursday gave trainer Steve Asmussen his ninth win of the meet, placing him in a three-way tie with Tom Amoss and Ken McPeek for leading trainer honors.

The win marked Asmussen's seventh victory from 18 starters since racing resumed at Churchill after the May 3 Kentucky Derby.

On Sunday he hopes to continue that momentum, starting three horses in the final three races, including morning-line favorites First Degree and Far East Gold in the two allowances on the card, races 8 and 9.

Provided they run to their potential, both will be difficult to defeat.

First Degree, facing $45,200 second-level allowance competition at seven furlongs in the eighth race, has twice run Beyer Speed Figures of 101, figures often good enough to win minor stakes. Far East Gold comes off a runner-up finish in which he was beaten a length after being blocked in traffic until the eighth pole.

After racing First Degree at Fair Grounds and Oaklawn this winter - tracks that do not card races between six furlongs and a mile due to the track configurations - Asmussen said he is looking forward to trying First Degree at seven furlongs.

"I'm hoping it's the ideal distance for him," he said.

Conditions were not as ideal in his last race at Oaklawn, when First Degree engaged in a speed duel going a mile, which proved too much for him, and he faded to second.

As for Far East Gold, who also races seven furlongs in the ninth race, a first-level allowance with a $43,100 purse, Asmussen said he was pleased with how the colt finished his last race once he shook clear of traffic.

"That gave us the confidence to try him at seven-eighths," he said.

Regular rider Shaun Bridgmohan has the mount on both colts, as well as on the Asmussen-trained Chief Gone West in the nightcap, a $50,000 nonwinners-of-two claimer.

If the weather in Louisville cooperates in the coming days, some of Asmussen's top horses are expected to work soon, perhaps Monday. Curlin, Pyro, and Z Fortune all had easy breezes this past Monday.

Horse of the Year Curlin remains targeted for the Grade 1, $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 14, Asmussen said, with Z Fortune pointed for the Grade 2 Ohio Derby at Thistledown on May 31 and Pyro aimed for the Grade 3 Northern Dancer at Churchill Downs on the Stephen Foster undercard.

Ramsey won't go it alone

In a meeting with other horsemen Tuesday, Ken Ramsey, a 12-time leading owner at Churchill Downs, advocated that horsemen take a firm stance against Churchill Downs in the dispute over revenue splits from advance-deposit wagering companies, suggesting horsemen might want to consider giving their horses a "vacation" following the track's 20 percent cut in purses.

Then Thursday, Ramsey and his wife, Sarah, proceeded to claim five horses at Churchill Downs, plus another at Arlington, and one more in New York - expanding their vast stable.

Did Ramsey change his stance following disagreement with some other horsemen who resisted his suggestion? Not to hear him explain the situation.

"I've hardened my stance since then," he said.

He said he is disappointed with Kentucky horsemen's groups, who he said are afraid to take on Churchill Downs and have entered into contracts that make it illegal for them to formally strike.

He said he would be willing to give his horses "a little break," provided other owners are willing to do so. But he said he won't do it alone.

"I don't want to shoot my own foot," he said.

One horse Ramsey does not expect to run before meet's end is Notonthesamepage, who set a track record at Churchill on April 30 when he raced 4 1/2 furlongs in 50.12 seconds, an effort that earned the horse a 104 Beyer, the highest such figure recorded by a 2-year-old this year.

He said he turned down a $750,000 offer on Notonthesamepage, a son of Catienus, from a prominent ownership group known for purchasing promising young horses, a group he declined to name. He said he would sell the colt for $1 million, but otherwise intends to run him in the Grade 2 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga on July 24.

Three of the horses Ramsey claimed Thursday - Crimson Ore at Churchill Downs, Brickyard Gal at Arlington, and Something Dixie at Belmont - are not racing prospects for him, he said. He plans to send the three fillies to his stallion Kitten's Joy, hoping to get them in foal before the breeding season winds down this month.

Scarlet Love scores in the slop

Like brother, like sister.

Scarlet Love, emulating her half-brother Visionaire, whose greatest victory came in this year's Gotham at Aqueduct over a sloppy track, turned in the best performance of her career by winning the featured eighth race Thursday at Churchill Downs over sloppy going.

Winning trainer Wally Dollase said he "got lucky" when he bought her for $170,000 in February of 2006, before anyone was aware of Visionaire.

Visionaire's success, combined with Scarlet Love's attractive looks, could make her valuable as a broodmare, particularly if Visionaire and Scarlet Love go on to have success in stakes.

"You really don't call fillies handsome, but that's really what she is - real handsome," Dollase said.

He said he hopes to race the 4-year-old filly for at least another year for owners Michael Jarvis and Ken Smole.

Brass Hat aims for Louisville Cap

Millionaire Brass Hat, who ran third in the Grade 2 Elkorn at Keeneland on grass last month, will remain on the turf for next Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs, trainer Buff Bradley said.

He said he was pleased with Brass Hat's effort in the Elkorn, his first start on turf since November 2005. The 7-year-old gelding, who won the Mass Cap last year, has raced predominantly on dirt.