04/12/2006 11:00PM

Asmussen pair difficult to separate


If a handicapper looks at Saturday's Irving Distaff and decides Steve Asmussen is going to win the race, a handicapper still is only partway home. That's because Asmussen has two horses in the $75,000 race, carded for 7 1/2 furlongs on the Lone Star turf course, and either one of them seems good enough to get the job done.

Of the two, Paz Ciudadana might be the more talented, but she has failed even to finish as high as third in three starts over the Lone Star turf, and might be better suited to at least slightly longer distances, according to her trainer. But My Misty Princess, who makes her first start in the Asmussen stable, is a three-time winner on the course, and was disqualified from a convincing victory during the fall of 2004 in the $92,000 Yellow Rose Stakes at Lone Star.

"She likes that distance, she likes that racetrack," Asmussen said. "She's beaten me several times."

My Misty Princess and Paz Ciudadana break from adjacent gates in a crowded 12-horse field. With so many horses - many of them pace factors - on Lone Star's compact grass oval, the winner figures to require plenty of racing luck.

Paz Ciudadana finished 10th in this race last season, but the chart-caller at Lone Star succinctly summed up her experience in the race: "Brutal trip, eased late." A Chilean import owned by Nelson Bunker Hunt, Paz Ciudadana has had a couple experiences like that. She has not been the easiest horse to ride at times, often pulling hard early in her races, but at her best she delivers a powerful stretch punch.

"We were just too stupid to figure her out earlier," said Asmussen. "She was just a big headstrong mare, and since we've learned to get along with her, she's been a lot better mare. This is just a starting point, a little short for her to be her best."

The young Quincy Hamilton is charged with guiding Paz Ciudadana through her paces Saturday. He won a Remington Park stakes race with her late last summer.

Beautiful Bay is one of several longshots that may have a chance. Drawn on the rail, Beautiful Bay changed circuits and trainers after a 2005 campaign in which she showed some turf talent without ever figuring out, it would appear, how to rate and finish. Trainer Joe Petalino gave her what seems like a dirt prep race at Oaklawn Park, and Beautiful Bay should like the short two-turn configuration of the Irving.

In from California for trainer Bobby Frankel is Elisa's Energy, who figures to attract betting support on her connections alone. But Elisa's Energy barely won a second-level Santa Anita allowance race in her last start, and must work out a trip from an outside draw.