02/03/2009 1:00AM

Three good ones, but they're no Pyro

Email

NEW ORLEANS - Steve Asmussen has three horses to run in the Risen Star Stakes this year, which is all well and good, but last year, Asmussen had the horse for the Risen Star. Pyro, the 4-5 favorite a year ago, did not disappoint, launching a memorable last-to-first stretch move that, alas, he was unable to duplicate the rest of his career.

So, while Asmussen has plenty of cards, he's not bluffing up his Risen Star hand. "It ain't Pyro," he said Tuesday.

The Asmussen triple entry helped swell Saturday's featured Risen Star, which wound up attracting 13 3-year-olds when entries were taken Monday. Friesan Fire, winner of the Lecomte Stakes last out, and Giant Oak, second in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes to finish off his 2-year-old season, should be the two favorites. Indygo Mountain has talent and a decent chance to bounce back from a poor performance in the Lecomte, and It Happened Again seems like a pretty fast horse. After that, the Risen Star looks like a cluttered attic - a bunch of stuff that needs to be sorted through.

That goes for Asmussen's horses: Uno Mas was a slightly disappointing fourth in the Lecomte after a Fair Grounds allowance win over Friesan Fire, while Dumar exits a local allowance win, and Soul Warrior makes his third career start after clearing the maiden ranks here Dec. 29.

"I think its time for all three of them to step up," Asmussen said.

Uno Mas and Dumar both summered with Asmussen's string in Chicago last year, but while Uno Mas got started in August and showed some degree of talent all along, Dumar didn't race until the Hawthorne meet in mid-October.

"The heat was an issue with him this summer," said Asmussen.

Dumar won a two-turn Hawthorne maiden race in his second start, then was a close third in a one-turn mile at the Churchill meet before capturing a two-turn entry-level allowance Jan. 17 at Fair Grounds.

Soul Warrior, meanwhile, debuted with a promising second behind Gulfstream route allowance winner Free Country at Churchill, then stretched out to win nicely over nine maidens late in 2008.

With 45 wins and more than $1.5 million in stable earnings this winter in New Orleans, Asmussen is having a fine Fair Grounds season. It's just that he's not swinging the big bat going into this Risen Star.

"This is all the lumber we've got," said Asmussen.

Denis of Cork may miss whole year

The promising 4-year-old filly Acoma had her first breeze of 2009 this week at Fair Grounds, and is on track for an early-spring return to the races, trainer David Carroll said Tuesday morning. But Denis of Cork, whom Carroll hoped to have back at his Fair Grounds barn by now, has been injured while training at a farm in Florida, and Carroll said it was unlikely Denis of Cork would start anytime this year.

Denis of Cork won an allowance race last season at Fair Grounds before a sharp score in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park stamped him as a Triple Crown contender. Denis of Cork wound up third in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont, but then sustained an injury that cut short his 3-year-old season. At Vinery Farm near Ocala, Fla., Denis of Cork had been galloping along toward a 4-year-old campaign when he suffered another setback last month.

"He'll be out of training indefinitely," said Carroll, who declined to specify the nature of Denis of Cork's injury.

Acoma, meanwhile, had a relatively brief winter break after ending her 2008 campaign on a high note with turf-stakes wins in the Grade 3 Valley View at Keeneland and the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere on Nov. 8 at Churchill Downs. Acoma, a daughter of Empire Maker, may be at least as good on dirt as on turf, Carroll believes, and is tentatively being pointed to the Azeri Stakes on March 8 at Oaklawn Park. Monday, she worked an easy three furlongs in 39.40 seconds.

"She's carrying plenty of weight, and she looks fantastic," said Carroll. "She was never let down completely. We're looking at the Azeri, and if she runs well there, the Apple Blossom."

Flying Pegasus, Secret Gypsy stay local

The connections of both Flying Pegasus and Secret Gypsy thought about hitting the road for out-of-town stakes, but thought twice, and decided to stay at home for races Saturday at Fair Grounds.

Rather than shipping to Oaklawn for the Feb. 16 Southwest Stakes, 3-year-old Flying Pegasus will make his 2009 debut in the Risen Star. And rather than shipping to Florida for the Feb. 15 Hurricane Bertie at Gulfstream, Secret Gypsy will stay in New Orleans, where she'll start as a heavy favorite in the Pan Zareta.

Flying Pegasus hasn't raced since he finished second behind Charitable Man and in front of Friesan Fire in the Sept. 13 Futurity at Belmont. The Southwest offered trainer Ralph Nicks nine more preparation days than the Risen Star, and the short-stretch one-mile configuration of the Oaklawn race seemed more appealing than the 1 1/16-mile distance here Saturday. But in the end, the prospect of traveling to the Southwest to face the likes of Old Fashioned, Silver City, and Square Eddie lacked appeal.

"The Southwest is coming up with such an accomplished field," Nicks said. "The nine days and the short stretch didn't seem worth it."

Flying Pegasus worked a half-mile in 49.20 seconds Tuesday.

Secret Gypsy is in excellent form, and with no graded stakes wins on her resume, her connections considered a try in the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie. Instead, Secret Gypsy will attempt to win a listed stakes for the second time this meet, and leave the graded-stakes foray for another day.

"It'll be a long year, hopefully," trainer Ronny Werner said. "She's been doing well on this track. We're just going to be patient, and try leading out of her stall. There's something to be said for staying at home."