08/28/2003 12:00AM

Evangeline: Asmussen entry appears tough


LAFAYETTE, La. - The Steve Asmussen-trained entry of McKinney and Storm Finale top the Matron Handicap at Evangeline Downs. The one-mile race for fillies and mares will carry a $35,000 purse.

McKinney, a 5-year-old mare, will be the starting highweight in the Matron at 118 pounds. She won the Bayakoa Stakes earlier this year at Oaklawn Park and finished second in the Delicada Stakes at Louisiana Downs on July 19. McKinney most recently finished third to Storm Finale in a money allowance, also at Louisiana Downs. Asmussen has named Lonnie Meche on both halves of the entry.

Last year's Matron winner, Prized Amberpro, will return to defend her title. Assigned three pounds less than the 120 she carried to victory last year, Prized Amberpro hopes to jump-start a disappointing 2003 campaign that has not produced a win. Leading rider C. J. Woodley has the call.

Blue Guru will also carry 117 pounds when she tries to duplicate her wire-to-wire win in the Delicada Stakes last month. Guy Smith will ride.

Another who rates a look is 8-year-old Due to Win. She is showing no signs of slowing down and comes in after finishing second in the same Aug. 7 allowance race in which Storm Finale and McKinney ran. Jeri Nichols rides at 115 pounds.