12/08/2005 1:00AM

Sunland Park: Asmussen sends Primal Storm

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It hasn't taken long for Steve Asmussen, Sunland Park's defending champion trainer, to make his presence felt here again. He already has one stakes win at the meet, and he looks for another one Saturday when he sends out Primal Storm as the horse to beat in the $50,000 Sunland Park Fall Derby. The 6 1/2-furlong race for 3-year-olds has attracted a field of five.

Primal Storm hinted at having significant ability right out of the gate in the spring of 2004, romping to victory in a maiden race at Churchill Downs and then winning the Grade 3 Flash at Belmont Park. Primal Storm ran third in the Tremont at Belmont, then finished a dull sixth in the Grade 3 Sapling at Monmouth, after which he wasn't seen until New Year's Day, 2005.

But he didn't come back the same horse. He was dull at Pimlico in his return start, then dull again in a stakes on the inner track at Aqueduct in mid-January of 2005. Asmussen regrouped with Primal Storm, putting him away for nine months. He returned in an allowance race at Keeneland on Oct. 16, but it was more of the same - in fact, worse. He finished a well-beaten seventh. He came back at Louisiana Downs against optional claimers on Nov. 25 and surprisingly showed some of his old speed and determination as he dueled, was headed, and came on again to take the lead and hold on for a victory. That win might signify that he is back on track. Brian Peck rides.

Dangerous Devon, trained by Mac Millar, also has plenty of speed. He won a stakes at Ruidoso Downs in September, came back a few weeks later and ran second in the Premier at Zia Park, then was second again in the Lea County there Nov. 5 All three of those races were sprints. Dangerous Devon tried a mile for the first time at Zia on Nov. 19, dueling on the pace as the favorite and faltering to end up fourth. He's back to his favored game, sprinting, and the only other time he raced at Sunland Park he won - in his first lifetime start, this past March. Casey Lambert rides.