11/11/2011 1:48PM

Churchill Downs: Asmussen has high hopes for Hierro after win

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Tom Keyser
Hierro, trained by Steve Asmussen, won his maiden in his third start.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Not only does Steve Asmussen have the surefire 2-year-old filly champion in My Miss Aurelia, but he also has a 2-year-old colt that stands to make a major impact in his division in the coming months as well.

Asmussen was thrilled with the way Hierro won a seven-furlong maiden race Wednesday at Churchill Downs, drawing off to prevail by 5 1/4 lengths, and the future Hall of Famer agreed the colt would have to rank among his most promising prospects for the classics next spring.

“He’s a big, strong, strapping colt, and obviously we have very high hopes for him,” said Asmussen, who turns 46 this coming Friday, Nov. 18.

Hierro, by Hard Spun, was purchased by the Stonestreet Stables for $350,000 in March at Ocala. The colt ran fifth in his Saratoga debut, then was a sharp second in his next start at Belmont Park before breaking loose with his romp Wednesday under Julien Leparoux in what was considered a solid field of maidens. Hierro earned an 85 Beyer Speed Figure with the victory.

Asmussen said trying to make the Nov. 26 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes with Hierro “would be coming back too quick” and that he has yet to decide on what is next for the colt, although a winter campaign in Southern California could be in store.

Asmussen, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with My Miss Aurelia and the BC Turf Sprint with Regally Ready, is swiftly closing in on the 6,000-win milestone. Into Friday action, his win total stood at 5,990. Besides Churchill, Asmussen also is currently active at Aqueduct, Woodbine, and Remington Park.

“I’d like to say I’m unaware of my running total, but my mom calls me with updates all the time,” he said with a laugh, referring to his mother, Marilyn.

Meanwhile, Asmussen said he and Dr. Tom Simon, the owner of Vinery Stables, are strongly considering the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint on Dec. 11 at Sha Tin as a next race for Regally Ready. The purse for the Sprint is approximately $1.8 million.

Monastic likely to get rest after win

Tom Proctor also unleashed a great-looking 2-year-old here Wednesday when Monastic earned an 85 Beyer as a 3 1/2-length winner of a first-level allowance route on turf, despite a sluggish start and some early traffic trouble. Monastic, a gelding, is by Rock Hard Ten out of Motokiks, which makes him a half-brother to turf standouts Keertana and Snow Top Mountain, both bred and owned by Barbara Hunter and trained by Proctor.

Monastic also was bred by Hunter, who owned him for his first start before agreeing to sell him privately for $300,000 to Scott Heider and Michael Dahir, who kept him with Proctor.

“That’s a pretty big number for a gelding,” Proctor said. “But he’s like his big sisters – he can really run and he’s so big that he still has a lot of room for improvement. I’d have liked to run him back in that little turf stake they used to have here the end of the meet, the Grand Canyon, but that’s not an option any longer. I’ll probably just turn him out for a little while and then get him ready for some of the bigger grass races next year.”

Whether he likes it or not, Proctor is becoming known for his prowess with grass horses, having not only experienced considerable success with the Hunter fillies and others, but also with Banned, the multiple stakes-winning colt who had to be euthanized days after breaking down in a workout in late September.

Monastic also was ridden by Leparoux, who into Friday led Corey Lanerie by a 15-11 count atop the jockey standings. Asmussen led Mike Maker by an 8-6 atop the trainer standings.

Woodard, Hays off to strong start

Joe Woodard and his longtime client Billy Hays have had a terrific start to the meet by winning with 6 of their first 12 runners, including a pair of winners Thursday with Kinsolving ($32.80) in the third and Plasma Beam ($11.40) in the sixth. Both horses are seasoned campaigners who were making their respective first starts for the stable.

“We’ve gotten some nice new stock in the barn, and obviously they’re performing well,” Woodard said.

Hays, a local car dealer whose stable name also includes wife Donna and son Justin, figures to wind up second in the national owner standings again this year to the Midwest Thoroughbreds of Richard and Karen Papiese. Into Friday, the Hayses had 243 wins this year.

Desert Wheat tops starter allowance

The second race Sunday is a starter-allowance route on turf, and it’s notable if for no other reason than Desert Wheat could surpass the $750,000 earnings mark with a victory. An 8-year-old Louisiana-bred horse trained by Bill Mott, Desert Wheat figures as the horse to beat when making his 61st career start.

Mott, incidentally, experienced a rare downer at this meet when Newsdad failed to fire when finishing sixth as the 3-2 favorite in the ninth-race feature here Thursday. Otherwise, the Hall of Fame trainer has had an incredible meet, winning the BC Classic and Ladies’ Classic while winning three other races.

◗ Sacristy, a 6 3/4-length winner of a tough 6 1/2-furlong maiden race here Thursday, earned an 82 Beyer with her victory for trainer Wayne Catalano. Sacristy, a 2-year-old filly by Pulpit, was making her second career start.