06/02/2004 11:00PM

Lunarpal looks like a cinch


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Slowly but surely, the Steve Asmussen juggernaut is taking a firm hold in Kentucky, just as it has in more westerly parts. In at least one of his specialties - 2-year-old racing - Asmussen has become a tour de force in the state, winning early-season races with precocious sorts such as Posse and Cuvee since the trainer became a circuit mainstay several years ago.

Now the juggernaut pulls into the Kentucky Breeders' Cup Stakes with another fast baby, and it seems highly doubtful that anyone will be able to do anything to prevent another Asmussen domination. This time, the center of attention is Lunarpal, the speedy colt who blazed away from his opposition in his first two starts and seems destined for another easy triumph at short odds Saturday in the $125,000 Kentucky BC at Churchill Downs.

, bred and owned by Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt, is by the win-early sire Successful Appeal out of the Quiet American mare Quiet Eclipse. After winning his April debut at Keeneland by seven lengths, the colt wheeled back in a little less than two weeks to win the May 1 Three Chimneys Juvenile by five lengths, wowing a huge Kentucky Derby audience in the process.

Asmussen said earlier this week that he would like to use the Grade 3 Kentucky BC and the meet-ending Grade 2 Bashford Manor Stakes on July 4 as Lunarpal's foundation races for the Saratoga meet. On Tuesday, Lunarpal tuned up for Saturday's race when he glided an easy half-mile in 48.40 seconds under regular rider Shane Sellers.

"He did it easy and is going into this race the way we'd like," said Asmussen.

Only four other 2-year-olds will oppose Lunarpal in the 5 1/2-furlong Kentucky BC, and of those, Smoke Warning, trained by Dale Romans, seems to merit the best upset chance, having drawn off impressively to win his second start here two weeks ago. Romans, who leads Asmussen atop the trainer standings at this meet, also will be represented by Maximus C in the race.

The Kentucky BC is carded as the eighth of 11 races on a solid program that also includes a make-up of the $150,000 Dogwood Breeders' Cup Stakes, which was canceled last Sunday because of weather.

The Grade 3 Dogwood (race 10) drew the same core of contenders as it did six days before, albeit with two fewer starters. Ender's Sister, trained by Rusty Arnold and his locally based assistant, Jack Bohannan, appears likely to draw the most action. She will break from post 2 in the field of six 3-year-old fillies.

Calvin Borel inherits the mount on Ender's Sister, who had Pat Day named on her last Sunday. Day is in New York to ride Royal Assault in the Belmont.

The other major Dogwood contenders are Galloping Gal, who so far has done her best work on grass but also appears highly capable on dirt, and Stellar Jayne, who has faced tougher company throughout the winter and spring after winning the Pocahontas Stakes here last fall.

The other starters in the 1 1/16-mile Dogwood BC are Dynaville, Song Track, and Family Business.

A sizable crowd is expected Saturday at Churchill, which will run its entire card before presenting the Belmont Stakes simulcast. First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern.