06/20/2006 12:00AM

Private Flight may handle open company


By the time he's finished, Steve Asmussen may need an entire wing of a large home to house the hardware he has been handed for winning training titles at racetracks across the country. And while Asmussen doesn't have a complete stranglehold on the trainers' race at the ongoing Lone Star Park meet, he sits five wins on top, and issues a reminder on Thursday's card of why he'll be so tough to topple: sheer numbers.

Asmussen is in some ways a volume trainer, and while there are volume trainers on every racing circuit, they don't win 20 to 30 percent of their races meet after meet after meet. Asmussen does. At Lone Star he has gone 44-192 (23 percent), and while the young trainer Cody Autrey has had an absolutely remarkable season, winning 37 percent of his Lone Star starts, he is still five wins behind Asmussen. While Autrey has live horses for races 5 and 6 on Thursday, the Asmussen outfit entered in five of nine available spots.

One of the few races absent an Asmussen trainee is the nominally featured eighth, an entry-level allowance also open to $20,000 claimers that's carded for one mile on dirt. Neither does Autrey have a horse here, but Bret Calhoun does, and you could call Calhoun the third member of the Lone Star Three - he, Asmussen, and Autrey have combined to win 110 races, well more than a quarter of the meet total.

Calhoun's horse for the feature is , and though he moves from Texas-bred races into an open allowance, Private Flight has a decent chance. Calhoun started running Private Flight in blinkers when he took over his training early this spring, and the results have been dramatic: Private Flight went from a hapless maiden to a winner of consecutive races, and after clearing his entry-level Texas-bred allowance condition, he finished second of 12 in a division of the Texas Stallion Stakes last month at Lone Star.

Four of Private Flight's seven opponents race under the claiming option, meaning Private Flight has more upside than many of his rivals while lacking their experience. Which brings us to another of the region's stalwarts, Cole Norman. Norman is fifth among Lone Star trainers (17 for 88), but he tops the standings with a 17-55 record at the still-young Louisiana Downs meet. He could add to the Lone Star total in Thursday's eighth if can outrun Private Flight.