08/12/2009 11:00PM

Four Gifts leads Asmussen 5

Barbara D. Livingston
Gifts wins the Eight Belles at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day. She has not raced since finishing sixth in the Acorn June 6.

A two-time Grade 3 stakes winner, Four Gifts, heads a group of five horses from the powerhouse stable of Steve Asmussen seeking to cash in on a lucrative six-stakes card at Charles Town on Saturday night.

Four Gifts is among five 3-year-old fillies who have won or placed in graded stakes in the $250,000 Charles Town Oaks, the feature on an 11-race card that has a special first post time of 6 p.m. Eastern.

There are five other stakes, including three worth $100,000 apiece. The four richest races make up an all-stakes pick four in races 7 through 10, a sequence that concludes with the Oaks at 10 p.m.

In addition to Oaks probable favorite Four Gifts, Asmussen has two contenders apiece in a pair of $100,000 stakes for 2-year-olds, the Charles Town Juvenile (race 8) and the Miss Shenandoah (race 9).

Asmussen's prime player, however, is Four Gifts, winner of the Grade 3 Eight Belles on the Kentucky Derby undercard and last December's Grade 3 Delta Princess in Louisiana. She has been freshened since finishing a troubled sixth in the Grade 1 Acorn on June 6.

Her chief rival looks like Florida shipper Royal Card, who has posted three consecutive Beyer Speed Figures in the narrow range of 92 to 94. Trained by Marty Wolfson, Royal Card comes off a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Azalea on last month's Summit of Speed card at Calder.

The 10-horse field for the Oaks also includes the locally based Beware of the Bop, a winner of six straight, including a pair of restricted stakes; Cinderella's Wish, who missed by a head in the Grade 3 Miss Preakness three months ago; and Love That Dance, whose trainer, Ben Perkins Jr., is passing up the Grade 3, $200,000 Monmouth Oaks at his home track earlier on Saturday in favor of the slightly larger purse in West Virginia.

Asmussen and jockey Robby Albarado also figure to play prominent roles in the seven-furlong Juvenile and the 4 1/2-furlong Miss Shenandoah.

In the Juvenile, Asmussen has the coupled entry of Grand Slam Andre and Western Smoke. Each is coming off a decisive victory in a small stakes in the Midwest.

The most intriguing challenger could be the Maryland-based Phil's Prospect, who is 2 for 2 after winning the Tyro at Monmouth last time out.

Vertical Vision, a romping winner of the Prairie Gold Lassie, and Kinsolving, third in the Grade 3 Debutante at Churchill Downs in late June, form a potent one-two punch for Asmussen in the Miss Shenandoah. Vertical Vision is cross-entered in Saturday's $150,000 Ontario Debutante at Woodbine.

The X factors are Letter of the Law, a winner of a $75,000 turf stakes at Penn National two weeks ago who has yet to race on dirt, and Richesgirlgotgame, who won her career debut as a heavy favorite in a field of 11 maidens over the Polytrack at Arlington Park.

In the other stakes:

* Gabriel's Smile, whose 5-for-6 record at Charles Town includes a win in a restricted stakes in June, and Ju Jitsu Jax, who shortens up to 4 1/2 furlongs after flashing high speed in longer sprints, are the top contenders in the $100,000 West Virginia Sprint Derby for 3-year-olds (race 7).

* Saxet Heights, who crushed open allowance foes by a combined margin of nearly 12 lengths in her last two starts, appears formidable when she meets West Virginia-bred fillies and mares in the $50,000 Sadie Hawkins at seven furlongs (race 6).

* Sweet Goodbye, whose 5-for-7 record as a 3-year-old last season included two stakes victories at Laurel, will make her first start of the year in the $75,000 Pink Ribbon at seven furlongs (race 5).