09/04/2009 12:00AM

Calendar says Asmussen is due

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Western Smoke, winner of the Prairie Gold Juvenile, gives trainer Steve Asmussen a big threat to win the Sapling for the third time since 2005.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Trainer Steve Asmussen has enjoyed recent success in the Grade 3, $150,000 Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Asmussen captured two of the last four editions of Monmouth's top event for 2-year-olds. He won in 2005 with He's Got Grit, and scored again in 2007 with Lantana Mob.

Asmussen looks poised to continue the every-other-year pattern Saturday when he sends out Western Smoke in Monmouth's final graded stakes on the main track.

The Sapling and the $100,000 Sorority for fillies, both at six furlongs, kick off the Labor Day weekend on the Jersey Shore.

With 3 wins in 5 starts, Western Smoke is the most experienced, and most successful, runner in the field.

The gray colt, a son of 1996 Sapling winner Smoke Glacken, was a debut winner on the synthetic surface at Keeneland in April. He really stepped up his game in the last two with a pair of dominant stakes wins that generated intimidating Beyer Speed Figures.

Western Smoke got a 94 Beyer for his 6 3/4- length win in the Prairie Gold Juvenile on July 18 and followed with a 92 Beyer in a 12 1/2-length romp in the Charles Town Juvenile.

He is the only horse in the field to crack the 90 Beyer barrier.

The contender who came closest to that level is local hopeful Awesome Son. Fifth in his debut in May on the slop, Awesome Son dominated next time out, getting an 88 Beyer in a 6 1/2- length victory.

A son of 2001 Sapling winner Pure Precision, Awesome Son was gelded between starts.

"He's doing super," trainer Tim Kelly said. "We're pretty high on him. What kills us now is that we gelded him."

There really wasn't a choice.

"He was a ridgling and he had an undescended testicle that was bugging him," Kelly said. "We did the surgery right before the last race and it really helped."

El Rocco, from the barn of Bruce Levine, Monmouth's leading trainer, was a solid second in the Tyro Stakes, the Sapling prep on July 26.

Completing the field are Not Macho Any More, Come From Behind, One Roll, Whats Up Cuge, and Toccet's Charm.

Kinsey among Sorority contenders

Asmussen could bag a stakes double in the Sorority with Kinsey, a maiden winner last time out at Saratoga with a race-high 86 Beyer.

The Sorority also features a pair of last-out stakes winners who are undefeated in two starts.

Hidden Expression, winner of the Colleen, the Sorority prep, breaks from the outside post in the eight-horse field for trainer Todd Beattie. Todd Pletcher sends out For Royalty, winner of the Mountaineer Juvenile Filly.

Trainer Kelly Breen has an entry of Bickersons and Truth and Justice.

Bickersons, the beaten favorite in her debut here in the mud on June 19, rolled to a pacesetting maiden win just less than a month later on a fast track.

"No more wet tracks for her," Breen said. "She hated the mud. That was the first time she was ever beaten by any horse. She always finished in front in all her breezes. At first, I was afraid she was just a morning glory. But after her second race, I knew it was the mud."

Truth and Justice won at first asking her in May and has run a pair of stakes since then: fourth in the My Dear at Woodbine and second to Hidden Expression in the Colleen.