01/17/2008 12:00AM

Classify hard to beat on Oaklawn oval


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Trainer Steve Asmussen has had a firm grip on the $50,000 American Beauty Stakes at Oaklawn Park since 2001, when My Brent's Diamond gave him his first win in the six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares. On Saturday, the meet's defending champion trainer will be looking for his fifth victory in the race with Classify, who brings a perfect local record of 3 for 3 into the American Beauty.

"She's had a lot of luck at Oaklawn," said Asmussen.

All three of Classify's local starts were made last year. She won her maiden over future Grade 2 winner Moon Catcher in a 5o1/2-furlong race in January, then proceeded to knock off her first- and second-level allowance conditions in February and March.

Classify, 4, returns to Oaklawn after racing at Fair Grounds, where in her last start she just got up for a half-length win in a turf allowance at about 5o1/2 furlongs. That race was on Dec. 6, her first start in seven months. Since then, Classify has been working at Oaklawn. She will break from post 2 under Luis Quinonez, and figures to be part of the first flight in the field of 11.

"I think she's pretty effective at being right off the pace and making a nice little punch," said Asmussen.

Classify, who races for Winchell Thoroughbreds, will be looking to join a list of Asmussen's American Beauty winners that already includes Eternal Cup in 2004, Souris in 2005, and More Moonlight in 2006.

Country Diva won the American Beauty in 2007 and is back to defend her title. She has won her last two starts, including the $75,000 New Year's Eve Stakes at Mountaineer Park. A consistent, versatile runner, she earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 94 in that race. The number is also the highest last-out Beyer of any entrant in the American Beauty. Michael Trivigno trains Country Diva for Marablue Farm, and has given the mount to Rex Stokes III.

Fast Deal, the runner-up in last year's American Beauty, comes into this year's running off a stakes win. In her most recent start she held on for a nose victory over Lady Belsara in the $50,000 Holiday Inaugural at Turfway Park on Dec. 1. Since that race, Lady Belsara came back and won the $50,000 Wishing Well at Turfway.