04/27/2009 11:00PM

Usual suspects hold strong hands in Juvenile


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - What happens at Keeneland doesn't necessarily stay at Keeneland. Take 2-year-old racing, for instance. Steve Asmussen, Wesley Ward, and Todd Pletcher accounted for all but one of the 11 baby races at the recently ended spring meet, and when the first 2-year-old stakes of the year on a major circuit is run Thursday at Churchill Downs, the spoils figure to stay in that elite circle of trainers.

Asmussen casts a particularly strong presence in the 2-year-old domain. Not only did he win five of the Keeneland races, but in recent years he also has virtually owned the $100,000 Kentucky Juvenile, the Grade 3 race which anchors the Thursday card at Churchill.

Asmussen, who sent out five straight winners of the Kentucky Juvenile before that remarkable streak finally was snapped last year, is represented by three of the nine 2-year-olds in the five-furlong race: Western Smoke, Kinsolving, and Heavenville. Asmussen is notoriously reluctant about revealing which horse he might prefer in a situation such as this, but here's a clue that fans might want to read into: Shaun Bridgmohan, who rode all three Asmussen horses to win at Keeneland, has the mount on Kinsolving.

Kinsolving is one of five fillies in the race, meaning the fairer sex outnumbers their male counterparts. In fact, both of the Ward horses, Aegean and Jealous Again, are fillies, which is not surprising, considering his philosophy regarding 2-year-olds.

"At this early stage, fillies tend to be faster and more advanced than colts, at least in my opinion," said Ward, who sent out three 2-year-old winners at Keeneland.

Jealous Again was extremely impressive in winning versus colts on opening day at Keeneland, and that 11 1/4-length triumph is sure to make her one of the wagering choices Thursday.

The lone Pletcher runner, Mission Impazible, also was sensational in his April 16 debut and is likely to take major play, too.

Outside of the Asmussen-Ward-Pletcher triangle, Kitty in the Bag and Gator Prowl ship in off flashy triumphs in Southern California and Maryland, respectively. Seattle Court, a maiden, rounds out the cast.

The Kentucky Juvenile is carded as the ninth race on a program that starts at 12:45 p.m. Eastern. The day's only allowance, a $50,200 turf route, directly precedes it.

General admission Thursday is $5, with seating in the new Infield Club an additional $10.