01/29/2008 12:00AM

Storm Treasure goes for meet's hottest barn


On Jan. 12, less than halfway through the ongoing season, Steve Asmussen set a Fair Grounds meet record for stakes wins by a trainer.

Suffice it to say, the air has not yet gone out of his operation. Asmussen bagged four more wins on Monday's card, giving him 54 in the first 46 days of the meet, and putting him on pace to eclipse Jack Van Berg's record of 92 wins during a Fair Grounds meet. How rapidly has the Asmussen barn been churning out victories? Only one jockey, leading rider Jamie Theriot, has won more Fair Grounds races than Asmussen.

Asmussen has horses for four more races on Thursday, and in Storm Treasure, he may have the favorite in the featured ninth, a third-level allowance race carded for one mile on turf.

Storm Treasure is one of 10 horses in the main body of the field. Stonehouse, who won an off-the-turf race in his most recent start, is entered main-track-only, and Tepexpan, who also prefers dirt to turf, is an also-eligible.

Storm Treasure, a flashy chestnut who finished up the track in the 2006 Kentucky Derby, ended a long losing streak with consecutive turf allowance wins in Kentucky last fall. But instead of building on that form, he regressed in two recent Fair Grounds stakes, finishing fifth in both the Dec. 15 Buddy Diliberto and the Jan. 12 Colonel Bradley. So, though Asmussen nominated Storm Treasure to the Feb. 9 Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup - a race in which Storm Treasure finished a close third in 2007 - he intends to drop Storm Treasure back into allowance company Thursday.

"He was laying on horses pretty bad the last couple races," Asmussen said. "I'm trying to get him winning again, and thinking about something else."

Storm Treasure has not landed in an easy spot, as Thursday's third-level allowance drew a much tougher field than the last time the same kind of race came up, on Jan. 11. Chief among Storm Treasure's rivals is Jazz Quest, who finished second by a neck to the Asmussen-trained Inca King in the Dec. 24 Woodchopper. Jazz Quest, only 4, still has room to improve, and appears to have an affinity for the Fair Grounds grass course, over which he has 2 wins, 3 seconds, and a third from 6 starts.

Also noteworthy are El Cumbres, a Group 1 winner in his native Chile; Cosmic Kris, who returns to the barn of trainer Bobby Springer and likes the Fair Grounds lawn; and Mulmur, who cleared his second allowance condition on Jan. 7.