04/07/2004 11:00PM

Sunland: Another Asmussen shipper


SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - Trainer Steve Asmussen will wrap up his first Sunland Park training title this weekend, and the achievement is as much a testament to his organizational skills as his horsemanship. With only 18 stalls on the grounds, Asmussen has continually shuttled horses in and out from Fair Grounds, Sam Houston, Oaklawn, and his training center in Laredo, Texas, always juggling condition books to find just the right spots.

Saturday's $100,000-added Sunland Park Handicap at 1 1/8 miles looks like another win for Asmussen, as he sends in Defrere's Vixen from Oaklawn to face 11 local rivals while toting top weight of 122 pounds. Defrere's Vixen ran decently last year at 3, placing in the Grade 3 Risen Star at Fair Grounds but winning just one race. Freshened after a subpar effort at Churchill in November, Defrere's Vixen has won consecutive races at Oaklawn. Casey Lambert, who heads into the final weekend of racing with a three-win lead over Ken Tohill for the jockey title, has the mount.

Fame Ina Minute, owned by Agnes Taylor, should be the top competition for Defrere's Vixen. Last time out, in the Curribot Handicap here Feb. 7, Fame Ina Minute won by a neck but was disqualified for bumping a rival at the sixteenth pole. Trainer Gary Cross has brought Fame Ina Minute up to the Sunland with a series of steady works and has been on a roll himself. Tohill will have the call at 115 pounds.

Face the Band is second highweight at 121 and was the beneficiary of Fame Ina Minute's disqualification in the Curribot. He has since won a classified allowance for trainer Jimmie Claridge and is a consistent horse who is in peak form. Tony Noguez has the return call.