12/27/2006 12:00AM

Autrey's run just beginning


If you happened to catch the first few weeks of the Lone Star Park meet this past spring, you probably noticed that trainer Cody Autrey seemed to be winning, oh, 12 or 14 races a day. Now, it's happening at Fair Grounds.

With four wins in three racing days last week, Autrey brought his meet win total to 11, for a one-win lead over Tom Amoss in the trainer standings heading into this week's races.

And the Autrey barn shows no sign of slowing. Already it has claimed some 15 horses at Fair Grounds. Autrey has a few owners he can count on to claim selectively, and one, Jerry Heflin, who will "claim about anything that looks healthy," according to Autrey.

"We're going to be claiming all meet," Autrey said. "At this moment we've got about $300,000 in the account."

If Autrey appeared to have the right horse for most of the Fair Grounds claiming races not restricted to Louisiana-breds the last couple weeks, it's not by accident. He said his stable had a decent Remington Park meet, but that he spent the last few weeks there setting up a Fair Grounds assault. Still, Autrey attributes his recent run to good fortune as much as skillful crafting.

"You cannot arrange something like that," he said. "You get a condition book and mark your spots, but you've got to get those races to go. Sometimes you don't get a race to go for three weeks, and then the horse you had for it is not near as ready."

Autrey was at Fair Grounds two years ago, not long after he had left his job as an assistant to trainer Bubba Cascio to go out on his own. His 15-horse string dropped down as low as 10 that year, but this winter Autrey has 36 stalls, and they should stay filled with running horses all meet.

Heflin, from Rockwell, Texas, got involved in racing in 2004, and he and Autrey share a love for action. Autrey said Heflin defers to him when it comes to spotting horses; if a recent claim needs a quick drop, so be it.

"We run our horses pretty aggressively," said Autrey. "Anytime you do that you put yourself in a position to win."

An 11-26 start at the tough Fair Grounds meet will testify to that.

Trosclair trio bears watching

So far, Jeff Trosclair has made only three starts at the Fair Grounds meet, but back in his barn are three horses that could make an impact on stakes races this meet.

Creative Force is one of them, and he's entered in Saturday's Woodchopper Stakes, with plans to start whether the Woodchopper stays on turf or gets moved to dirt because of rain. Also gearing up for action is Fort Prado, who, like Creative Force, was sent to Trosclair by trainer Chris Block, whose family owns both horses, and Hyte Regency, whom Trosclair trains for his longtime owner, Jesse Mack Robinson.

Creative Force was one of 10 entered in an especially good-looking edition of the Woodchopper. A strapping Illinois-bred by Red Ransom, Creative Force still is maturing on the eve of his fourth birthday, and Trosclair, who has been around him for only a few weeks, described Creative Force as a horse who looks like a true distance horse.

"He's huge, and he's got a real good way of going," Trosclair said. "He acts to me like a mile-and-a-quarter horse."

Creative Force last raced at Churchill Downs, finishing third to the stakes-class Big Prairie in a third-level allowance race. He's won on both turf and dirt, and can contend on Saturday regardless of track surface.

Fort Prado hasn't raced since he finished fourth on Sept. 30 in the Carey Handicap at Hawthorne, after which he went to Florida for a short break. Trosclair trained Fort Prado last winter when the horse won a pair of Grade 3 stakes, and said Fort Prado might well be ready to for the Colonel Bradley Handicap on Jan. 13.

"I guess he strained a muscle in his back and they stopped on him about three weeks, but I see no sign of it here," Trosclair said. "He's just floating around out there."

Trosclair also has high hopes for Hyte Regency, who hasn't raced since last Jan. 14, when he went out with an injury. Hyte Regency showed flashes of major talent before his long layoff, and has turned in five well-spaced workouts at Fair Grounds, readying for his comeback. Trosclair said he plans to bring Hyte Regency back in a second-level allowance race, but whether that comes at a sprint distance or a route hasn't been determined.

Ermine easing back into shape

Ermine, winner of the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap at Churchill in her last start, breezed an easy half-mile Sunday in her first work since shipping into Fair Grounds.

"We're just kind of getting her back swinging right now," trainer Ronnie Werner said. "I kind of backed off of her a little bit and gave her a little bit of a break."

Werner said his major goal for Ermine is the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park, but that a trip to California for a Santa Anita stakes race will be considered this winter.