01/08/2004 1:00AM

Sunland: Race pits two top trainers


SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - Saturday's $50,000-added Winsham Lad Handicap at one mile for 3-year-olds and up is a trainers' race. It pits Ramon Gonzalez, who has six Sunland titles, against Steve Asmussen, who in his first year stabled here has overtaken Gonzalez in the local standings despite having only 18 stalls.

Although nearly every horse Asmussen has run here has been bet down to favoritism, it is hard to look past the Gonzalez-trained This Cat's for You, who will be making his first start as a 4-year-old. This Cat's for You ran well through late summer of his 3-year-old season, was given a freshening in September, and has taken this meet by storm.

Bred in Colorado by his owner, the Wafer Thoroughbred Ranch, This Cat's for You started the meet by whipping older horses Nov. 29 in the KLAQ Handicap and then won the Dec. 13 Yuletide Derby. Both of those races were sprints in which This Cat's for You forced fast early fractions and drew off in the stretch with authority.

This Cat's for You also has two-turn credentials: He was beaten a half-length in the Colorado Derby Aug. 3, his first attempt beyond a sprint distance, then won the 1 1/16-mile restricted CTBA Derby in his next start. Regular rider Ken Tohill will be in the irons.

Asmussen, who has won 21 of 73 starts this meet, has been shut out in six tries in stakes this year, after winning six stakes here last meet.

"We aren't liking it too good, either," said local assistant Tony Mathiasen. "But a few horses had bad luck, and others simply didn't fire."

Most of the horses who were beaten had been training here, but Mathiasen said the uncoupled entry running in Winsham Lad Handicap, Compendium and Easyfromthegitgo, arrived from Sam Houston on Tuesday. Both lost in allowance races at this meet as strong favorites, but those races can easily be tossed out. On Dec. 2, Compendium tired in the stretch of a one-mile race after setting fractions of 44.71 and 1:09.90. On Dec. 23 Easyfromthegitgo, a closer-stalker, was behind a 50.15 half and a 1:14.12 three-quarters, rendering his closing kick ineffective.

Casey Lambert will ride Compendium, and Jeremy Beasley will ride Easyfromthegitgo.