09/30/2004 11:00PM

Ready Ruler needs to stay grounded

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GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Ready Ruler has so much talent that he jumped at the wire in his last race and still won. If he eliminates the jumping, as his trainer, Steve Asmussen, believes he will, he could be tough in the $100,000 Middle-ground Breeders' Cup at Lone Star Park on Sunday.

The one-mile race for 2-year-olds is one of two stakes on the program, and it will be telecast on ESPN between 5-6 p.m. Central. The race is a prep for the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile, which will be run at Lone Star on Oct. 30.

propped near the finish line last out in the $100,000 El Joven at Retama Park on Sept. 4. He was distracted by the photo finish lights, but proved much the best anyway, winning the one-mile turf race by a length. Ready Ruler can get to the wire quicker in the Middle-ground by staying on the ground.

"It will be day racing, so I don't think I have to worry about it this time," said Asmussen. "It just seems to be the lights with him."

Ready Ruler will be moving back to dirt in the Middleground. He won his maiden on the main track at Lone Star in June.

"He's better on the dirt," said Asmussen, who has given the mount to Jeremy Beasley.

Asmussen, who swept the four juvenile stakes this spring at Lone Star, has two other starters in the Middleground. Expect Will, who is 4 for 5, will make his two-turn debut in the race, while El Batallon will be making his first start for Asmussen since being purchased by Ro Parra.

El Batallon stretched out to two turns last time and ran third in the $50,000 Seacliff at Calder on Sept. 6.

"The way he acts, distance isn't going to be a problem for him," said Asmussen.

Calvin Borel will ride El Batallon.

Donnie Meche has the mount on Expect Will, who won all four of the starts he made at Lone Star in the spring, including divisions of the Texas Thoroughbred Association Sales Futurity and the Texas Stallion Stakes.

The three horses from the Asmussen barn will start as separate interests Sunday.

Also in the race is Tricky Slew, who earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 80 at Remington Park in his only start.