04/15/2007 11:00PM

Hot barn sends Asi Siempre in Doubledogdare

Alex Evers/Horsephotos
Asi Siempre

LEXINGTON, Ky. - When the 15-day Keeneland spring meet hits its midway point with a nine-race Wednesday card, Patrick Biancone will have them right where he wants them.

Biancone, who led all trainers in wins at Keeneland last fall - the first meet with Polytrack as the main racing surface - appears poised to repeat. Biancone, the world-traveled Frenchman who trained All Along to the North American Horse of the Year title in 1983, had won with 5 of 26 starters through last weekend, the most wins and starts among all trainers at the meet.

Biancone said before the meet started that he had pointed many of the 65 horses in his stable specifically to this meet, including several stakes-caliber runners. On Saturday, Biancone watched with great satisfaction as Stream Cat returned from a layoff of nearly nine months to defeat an excellent group of older horses, including Perfect Drift, in an allowance race, and Wednesday, he will put another standout on the comeback trail - Asi Siempre, who heads the 13th running of the Grade 3 Doubledogdare Stakes.

Asi Siempre, a 5-year-old gray mare owned by Martin Schwartz, concluded her 2006 campaign with a flourish. Making her Polytrack debut in the signature race of the fall meet, the Gradeo1 Spinster Stakes, she won going away with a terrific late surge. In her next start, the Breeders' Cup Distaff, she was closing with such power that her jockey, Julien Leparoux, had trouble keeping her from running up on the heels of another horse, and Asi Siempre was disqualified from second to fourth for bumping a rival as she blew past.

Leparoux has been replaced by arguably the nation's hottest jockey, Garrett Gomez, for the Doubledogdare, a switch that Biancone shrugged off as insignificant.

"I have two runners in there," he said, alluding to Leparoux's mount, Pyramid Love, a two-time winner over the Polytrack here last fall.

With Asi Siempre and Pyramid Love, Biancone looks like the dominant force in the $100,000 Doubledogdare, a 1 1/16-mile race that drew a field of seven fillies and mares. If Biancone is to be denied, it might be by Mo Cuishle, a Todd Pletcher-trained filly who opened her career last year with three straight wins, including a romp in the Monmouth Oaks; or Soul Search, a Neil Howard-trained filly who was second to Asi Siempre in the Spinster last fall.

The Doubledogdare, the eighth race on the card, is directly preceded by a tough third-level turf allowance worth $62,000. which drew $465,123, third-highest in the nine-year history of Churchill Downs offering parimutuel futures. The aggregate total handle for the three Derby future pools this year was $1,365,424, fourth-highest in history.

After Curlin, the next choices in Pool 3 were Street Sense at 6-1, Circular Quay (9-1), Nobiz Like Shobiz (10-1), Scat Daddy (11-1), and Hard Spun (13-1). The biggest drop in odds following the two major Derby preps over the weekend, the Blue Grass Stakes and Arkansas Derby, came on Dominican, the Blue Grass winner who closed Sunday at 17-1 after opening at 70-1 on Saturday morning.

Curlin surfaced so late as a Derby contender that he was not a separately listed wagering interest, and therefore was part of the mutuel field, in Pool 1, which ran Feb. 8-11. For Pool 2, which ran March 8-11, Curlin closed at 30-1 when listed separately. The field closed as the favorite in the first two pools but is 25-1 in Pool 3.

Only 21 separate interests were available at the close of Pool 3. Wagering was suspended on Birdbirdistheword before wagering even opened Thursday, and Notional was scratched Saturday evening, hours after the colt was diagnosed with an injury.

The record for Pool 3 handle is $533,973, set in 2005, the same year the record aggregate total of $1,665,990 was set.

Meanwhile, in Pool 3 of the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, Rags to Riches closed as a 3-2 favorite followed by her Todd Pletcher-trained stablemate Octave, at 6-1, then by High Heels (10-1), Boca Grande (13-1), and Cotton Blossom (15-1).

Pool 3 handle on the Oaks was $71,040, while the aggregate Oaks handle for Pools 1, 2, and 3 was $193,086, a record since Churchill moved to a three-pool format for the Oaks in 2004. Oaks futures handle historically has been about 15opercent of the Derby handle. Churchill first offered parimutuel futures on the Derby in 1999, and the first Oaks pool was in 2003.