10/10/2003 12:00AM

She always tries hard

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Bauhauser comes into the TCA Stakes off a win in the Grade 3 Floral Park in New York.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Anyone who has watched Bauhauser in any of her three races in the United States probably couldn't help but notice the way the gray mare appears to dig down and give every ounce of possible effort.

"That's the one thing that was very evident about her when I first got her," said Steve Asmussen, who began training Bauhauser for Bill Heiligbrodt and Johnny Jones in April. "She's a professional racehorse. She absolutely knows how to run."

Sunday at Keeneland, Bauhauser will shoot for her third victory in four U.S. starts as the probable favorite in the 23rd running of the $125,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes. Jones arranged to have the gray 5-year-old imported last winter from her native Argentina, where she won 7 of 12 starts. Bauhauser finished second in a Churchill Downs allowance before using a high turn of speed to win a Saratoga allowance and the Grade 3 Floral Park Handicap at Belmont.

As a Grade 3 race at six furlongs, the TCA Stakes "is a great spot for her," said Asmussen. "We were thinking about the Gallant Bloom [last week at Belmont], but this gave us an extra week with her. We're going to really focus on this race, and if she runs well again, as we expect, then there should be plenty of opportunities for us along the way."

Bauhauser, to be ridden by Corey Lanerie, drew post 2 among a field of 11 fillies and mares entered in the TCA Stakes. The other logical contenders are two 4-year-olds in sharp form: Vicki Vallencourt (post 5), winner of the Ellis Park Breeders' Cup two starts back, and Don't Countess Out (post 7), winner of the Weekend Delight at Turfway Park in her last start.

Vicki Vallencourt, owned by Ricki and Ron Rashinski, has developed into a reliable late runner for trainer Eddie Kenneally, having racked up nearly $125,000 from nine starts this year. Don't Countess Out, a winner of 10 of 22 career starts for Southern Pride Stable and trainer Larry Jones, is tactically versatile, although she tends to do her best from just off the pace.

Distinctive Code, a recent stakes winner at Louisiana Downs, may be best of the rest. Her trainer, Larry Robideaux, won the TCA last year with French Riviera.

The TCA is the eighth of nine Sunday races on a card that also includes four allowances (races 4, 6, 7 and 9). First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern.