11/27/2003 12:00AM

Grand Steal update: Asmussen believes he's figured him out

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Trainer Steve Asmussen has found the key to Grand Steal, and that could be bad news for the competition Saturday night in the $35,000 Conroe at Sam Houston Race Park.

A six-furlong race for 3-year-olds, the Conroe drew a deeper field than some stakes three times its value. Top contenders include Book Note, who earned his second 100 Beyer Speed Figure last out when he won an allowance by 9 3/4 lengths, and Leo's Last Hurrahy, a multiple stakes winner of $353,118.

Also in the field is Jaded Heat, an up-and-coming colt who won his comeback off a five-month layoff last out; Was My Case, a promising invader from Louisiana; and the strong coupled entry of Herve and Czech Mate.

Grand Steal, however, should rule as a slight favorite following his 3 3/4-length win over two-other-than allowance foes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 7. The race was his second start since June.

"We gave him the summer off so we'd have a nice, fresh horse in the fall," said Asmussen, who trains Grand Steal for James Cassels and Bob Zollars.

A son of Grand Slam, Grand Steal won his maiden at six furlongs last winter, and soon after was stretched out in distance in a series of two-turn races at Fair Grounds. He finished second, third, and seventh in three route attempts. In the spring Asmussen returned him to a sprint, and he promptly won an allowance at Keeneland.

"I tried to make a [Kentucky] Derby horse out of him, stretching him out to two turns," he said. "I think what we've got is a very good horse that's going to be an excellent closing sprinter in the Midwest."

Jeremy Beasley has the mount on Grand Steal.