By Bill Finley
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen reached another personal milestone in his career on Monday at Oaklawn Park, winning his 10,000th race. The first North American trainer ever to reach that number, Asmussen recorded the historic win in the fifth race on the card with $40,000 maiden claimer Bet He's Ready (More Than Ready), an easy winner under jockey Ricardo Santana Jr.
“This is very hard to put into words,” Asmussen said from the Oaklawn winner's circle. “There's all the support that we have continually gotten. This is a family affair for me with my mom and dad and my coming from a racing family. I got so many well wishes since we got close. This is a wonderful thing and I'm blessed to have my family here and to have all the continuing support that I get.”
The win ended an uncharacteristically cold streak for Asmussen. He picked up win 9,999 in the first race on Saturday at Sam Houston Race Park with maiden claiming winner Noble Honor (Distorted Humor). From there, Asmussen had 29 straight losers before the win with Bet He's Ready.
“We were stuck on 9,999 for quite enough time,” Asmussen said. “I guess we wanted to make it a little bit dramatic.”
The win at Oaklawn was also the 700th at that track for Santanta.
“We've hit some significant milestones with Ricardo and I am sure we will continue to do so,” Asmussen said.
To honor Asmussen's win, Oaklawn donated $5,000 in his name to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and another $5,000 to the Arkansas Thoroughbred Retirement & Rehabilitation Foundation.
Monday's feat was just the latest for a trainer who, when it comes to winning races, has no equal. Asmussen began his career in 1986, winning just one race that year with a horse at Ruidoso Downs. He consistently improved his numbers over the years and had a career-best 407 wins in 2002. In 2004, he set a single-season record for wins by a trainer with 555, surpassing the previous mark of 496 held since 1976 by Jack Van Berg. He topped his own record in 2008 with 621 wins and topped it again in 2009 with 650 victories. On August 7, 2021, Asmussen won his 9,446th race, surpassing the late Dale Baird to become the leading trainer in North America by wins when Stellar Tap (Tapit) won the fifth race at Saratoga.
Just 57 and in the prime of his career, Asmussen is likely to record several thousand more wins before he is done and further pull away from the pack. Jerry Hollendorfer is second all-time in North America with 7,757 wins, but has averaged just 35 wins per year since 2020.
Asmussen's next target will be the Peruvian trainer Juan Suarez Villarroel, who has the most career wins of any trainer in the sport. Suarez Villarroel entered Monday's action with 10,336 career wins.