12/18/2010 3:33PM

Heavenly Sister shoots for three in a row in turf sprint

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Steve Asmussen's operation is focused more on California and less on Louisians this year, but that doesn't mean he won't be dangerous at Fair Grounds.

There has been no onslaught of winners from the Fair Grounds barn of Steve Asmussen so far this meet, and given the recent alterations in the Asmussen operation – more focus on California, less on Louisiana this winter – that might not change during the 2010-2011 season. But Heavenly Chorus’s victory in the first race Saturday gave Team Asmussen two victories from their last five starters in New Orleans, and handicappers would do well to keep an ear to the ground, listening for rumblings of an Asmussen breakout.

The Asmussen stable’s entrant in the featured eighth race Monday, Heavenly Sister, has roots deep in Asmussen history. She is owned by the Ackerley Brothers Farms, among Asmussen’s first solid clients, and was produced by the mare Little Sister, a foal of 1994 who was one of Asmussen’s best horses of the mid-1990s, a nine-time stakes winner. Heavenly Sister has been rolling lately, capturing back-to-back turf sprints at Remington Park. She’s one of nine horses in Monday’s second-level optional $40,000 claimer scheduled for 5 1/2 furlongs on grass.

Heavenly Sister has appeal not just for her recent form, but because she turned in a good performance over the Fair Grounds grass course last season, rallying for second in a 10-horse maiden race. A bullet five-furlong work on Dec. 11 at the Evangeline training center suggests Heavenly Sister retains her edge, but she must overcome the far outside post in Monday’s race.

Age of Humor and Rapid Racer are at least mildly interesting making their turf debuts. Age of Humor’s five races before going to the sidelines in July came in graded stakes, and her sire, Distorted Humor, gets plenty of turf runners. Age of Humor has worked forwardly for trainer Mike Maker, who regularly wins with long-layoff comebackers.

Rapid Racer hasn’t started since fading to sixth in the Dixie Belle on Jan. 15 at Oaklawn Park, but she also has turned in encouraging works. Rapid Racer’s two Polytrack starts were better than anything she showed on dirt, suggesting that turf might also suit her.