01/13/2005 1:00AM

Coronado Rose heads River Oaks


The last time Coronado Rose was seen in the winner's circle, she made history. She lifted Steve Asmussen to a North American record for victories in a year by a trainer on Nov. 20, when she surged to a neck win in the $40,000 Delta Belle at Delta Downs.

But even before then, Asmussen has said he regarded Coronado Rose as special. She proved him right in her second start, when she won her maiden at Keeneland by 7 1/4 lengths Oct. 24. From there, Coronado Rose won the $52,000 Princess at Sunland and the Delta Belle, and on Saturday night she will shoot for her third stakes win in the $40,000 River Oaks at Sam Houston Race Park.

A six-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies, the River Oaks drew a field of eight. Coronado Rose should go favored because of her 3-for-5 career record and her solid second-place finish last out in the $50,000 Gowell at Turfway Park on Dec. 26. She set a brisk pace in the early stages of that race and figures to control the pace from her rail post Saturday.

Roman Chapa has the mount on Coronado Rose, a daughter of Coronado's Quest who races for Asmussen's father, Keith, and Ocean Front Property, the stable of country recording artist George Strait.

The chief threat appears to be Galactic Cat, who in her last start was fourth to the talented More Moonlight in the $50,000 Letellier Memorial at Fair Grounds. Earlier in her career, Galactic Cat finished second in the $40,000 Prairie Meadows Debutante and third in the $60,000 Holly at The Meadowlands. James Graham has the mount for trainer Rebecca Maker.