11/29/2005 12:00AM

Asmussen's team taking charge


With Fair Grounds racing moved this winter to Louisiana Downs in northwest Louisiana, the season has a strange feel. Months after the storm hit, Hurricane Katrina still is bringing weirdness into so many niches of everyday life in the region.

Leave it to Steve Asmussen to establish some continuity at this meet. Asmussen has become the perennial leading trainer at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, and from the appearance of things, he means to be leading trainer at Fair Grounds at Louisiana Downs. After six racing days, Asmussen has 9 wins from 20 starters. Another five of his horses have finished second, and 15 of the 20 have been third or better.

"Averages say you slow down, but we don't feel like it," Asmussen said Tuesday morning from Dallas. "You're not going to win nine races every six racing days, but we still should be really live."

Asked to account for his stable's dizzying pace, Asmussen said, "Go, Darren Fleming."

Fleming, a longtime assistant, usually sets up Asmussen's Fair Grounds string for Scott Blasi, another assistant, who would head to Louisiana after the Churchill meet. But this year, Blasi will winter in Florida, and Fleming is the fixture of the Louisiana operation.

"Darren has done a great job, and yes, we are familiar with [Louisiana Downs] from being there for a long time," Asmussen said.

Asmussen, who leads the nation with 433 wins in 2005, has won with horses in all different kinds of races at the meet. Saturday, he took the $75,000 Pago Hop Stakes with More Than Promised, who scored a decisive three-length victory over Enduring Will, a filly More Than Promised had beaten by only a nose in early October.

"She's a nice filly, and she's gotten exceptionally good," said Asmussen, who trains More Than Promised for the Vinery Stables. "She's always been a beautiful filly we thought a lot of, but while her races were decent, they weren't quite as good as what we'd hoped."

Asmussen said More Than Promised turned a corner winning a second-level allowance race this summer at Arlington Park. That started a four-race win streak that More Than Promised will try to extend sometime later this winter in a turf stakes race in south Florida.

Silver Haze getting winter vacation

Races were off the turf Sunday because of overnight rain, but that didn't stop Silver Haze from winning the $75,000 Woodchopper Handicap. The 3-year-old Silver Haze handles main tracks wet and dry as well as the grass, and has won 6 races in 17 starts for trainer Steve Wren and owner Kaaren Biggs. And as a reward for his victory Sunday, Silver Haze is getting a good, long rest, Wren said.

"I'm going to rest him and give him the winter off," said Wren. "He's been going steady since he was 2, so he deserves a break, and there are no grass races for him. We'll give him 50 days off, then start up with him again."

Peitz right at home

When Fair Grounds moved from New Orleans to Bossier City this winter, it gave the trainer Danny Peitz a chance to do something unusual - go home.

Peitz, an Arkansas native, has wintered in New Orleans and summered in New York for years. But for the first time in five years, he is home at his condo not far from Oaklawn Park for several months in a row. Peitz will stable at Oaklawn and ship horses to race at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs.

"This worked out pretty good for me," Peitz said. "I hadn't been home for Thanksgiving since I've been on the racetrack, and that's been 30 years."

Peitz's first starter of the Fair Grounds season is Cap and Gown, one of 14 horses entered in Thursday's only open allowance on a 10-race program. Only 10 can run in race 9, an entry-level allowance at about 1 1/16 miles on turf, with four horses stuck on the also-eligible list.

Peitz claimed Cap and Gown on behalf of Royal Oaks Thoroughbreds for $25,000 on Oct. 15 at Belmont Park, and switched her to grass for a $45,000 claimer about a month ago at Aqueduct. Cap and Gown finished an even fifth of 10, but ran well enough to suggest she can contend Thursday.

"She really didn't have any excuse up there last time, but she ran okay," Peitz said.

With no real standouts, a notch better than okay might be enough to get the job done. Cap and Gown can save ground from post 2, and figures to get first run on two other logical contenders, Paver and Roller and Time to Buy.