12/05/2002 1:00AM

Souris leads Asmussen charge


HOUSTON - Trainer Steve Asmussen has had some big statebred days in Texas, and he looks to be sitting on another one Saturday at Sam Houston Race Park. Only this time, some of the horses he will start were bred in Kentucky, among them Souris, who should go favored in the $275,000 Great State Challenge Juvenile Fillies.

Souris is one of six horses Asmussen will start in the inaugural Great State Challenge. His other starters on the card include Kentucky-breds Easyfromthegitgo, probable favorite for the $275,000 Classic, and Posse, one of the leading contenders in the $275,000 Juvenile.

"Running at Houston, we focused on the [Great State Challenge]," said Asmussen, who has a division at the track. "We were able to plan on running in the races because we knew we were going to be there."

Souris goes to bat in the first Great State race, and can get things rolling for the Asmussen barn. She turns back in distance to seven furlongs after placing third in two one-mile stakes in her last two starts: the $111,000 Pocahontas at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2 and the Grade 3 Arlington Washington Lassie at Arlington Park Sept. 28.

"I think the mile in her last two races was a bit farther than she wanted to go," said Asmussen. "She's a very honest, hard-trying filly and I feel very good about the race."

Earlier this year, Souris won the $75,000 Top Flight over six furlongs at Arlington.

Asmussen's other hope for the Juvenile Fillies is Hannah's Royalrock, who was bred in Texas. She gave the trainer his fifth consecutive win in the $50,000 Bara Lass for statebreds on Texas Champ-ions Day at Sam Houston last month when she rolled to a 2 1/4-length victory. The race was run at seven furlongs as a prep for the Juvenile Fillies.

Glen Murphy will ride Hannah's Royalrock, and Corey Lanerie has the mount on Souris.

Chief threats to the Asmussen duo appear to be the Florida-bred Elegant Dancer, who has won her last two races, and Kentucky-bred Midnight Cry, third in the Grade 1 Spinaway in August.

Midnight Cry ships in from New York, where she finished fourth last out in the Grade 3 Valley Stream at Aqueduct. Before that race, she closed from last to first to win a conditioned allowance over 6 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland.

"The seven-eighths is what attracted us to this race," said Ken McPeek, who trains Midnight Cry, and who has given the mount to Edgar Prado.

Also in the nine-horse field are statebred stakes winners Miss Nicolie for California and Hurricane Hebe for Indiana.