09/13/2002 11:00PM

Asong for Billy ready to win first stakes


POMONA, Calif. - Early this year, Asong for Billy was a two-start maiden claimer heading nowhere. Enter trainer Paul Aguirre, who claimed the gelding for $40,000 and developed him into one of the surprises of summer.

Asong for Billy defeated maidens in his first start for Aguirre and owner Wong's Stable Inc., then followed with a romping win Aug. 21 that suggested stakes potential. Facing winners and switching to grass, Asong for Billy rolled by 5 1/2 lengths, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 90.

At Fairplex Park on Monday, Asong for Billy seeks his first stakes win in the $50,000 Derby Trial. If the Derby Trial unfolds without incident, Asong for Billy should win the 1 1/16-mile race at a short price. His main rivals include Rainman's Request, a Fairplex stakes winner last year, and sprinter Lou's Expectation. The other starters are National Park, Highly Suspect, Groom on the Run, Four Checker, Sunkosi, and Bold Mango.

The last-start win by Asong for Billy was validated when runner-up Bold Mango returned to win his next start. Asong for Billy's triumph was as visually impressive as it looks in the past performances, and sharp subsequent workouts suggest he will be difficult to beat in the Derby Trial.

Rainman's Request, who has shown an affinity for the five-eighths-mile Fairplex track, was claimed by high-percentage trainer Pete Eurton last out. Rainman's Request scored a 30-1 upset in the Gateway to Glory Stakes here last year while trained by Doug O'Neill.

Rainman's Request and jockey Tyler Baze are likely to set the pace, hounded by Lou's Expectation and Chance Rollins. Lou's Expectation was chewed up pressing a fast pace in an open allowance against older, and is now back with 3-year-olds. Meanwhile, jockey Iggy Puglisi may have the best seat on Asong for Billy, who figures to tuck in right behind the front-runners.

Puglisi employed similar tactics Friday, opening day of the Los Angeles County Fair meet, when he guided Laffit ($26.40) to a one-length upset in the $50,000 Foothill Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters. Trained by Frank Olivares, Laffit won for the first time since March. From A to Z finished second, three-quarters of a length in front of Crooked Key. Mighty David, the 3-2 favorite, took up while tiring on the far turn and finished seventh.

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