Hot Trainer Steve Asmussen Joins TDN Writer's Room


Steve Asmussen | Sarah Andrew

On his drive from Saratoga to Kentucky Downs Tuesday, Steve Asmussen stopped in every state he drove through and bought lottery tickets. Shocking that he didn't win.

Coming off one of the greatest week-and-a-half stretches in racing history, during which he won five Grade I races in Saratoga over nine days, Asmussen was this week's Green Group Guest of the Week on the TDN Writer's Room, presented by Keeneland. If that wasn't enough, two of his wins, Gunite in the GI Hopeful S. and Echo Zulu in the GI Spinaway S., came from the first crop of Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg}). Gun Runner, the 2017 Horse of the Year who was trained by Asmussen, is off to a sensational start at stud.

“Five Grade Is in nine calendar days, unbelievable,” said a jubilant Asmussen “We're blessed with the best horses in the world, but they just showed up when it mattered most. I was driving out of Saratoga yesterday, headed to Kentucky Downs for the races, and I could have got out and run around the car a couple of times. I was so excited. ”

While the horses have made Asmussen, sometimes Asmussen makes the horses. There's no better example of that than Max Player (Honor Code). An also-ran in May in the GIII Pimlico Special, he has since come back to win the GII Suburban S. and Saturday's GI Jockey Club Gold Cup. He is an example of a case when Asmussen went back to the drawing board, and it worked.  He said there were two keys to the process, not letting Max Player fall behind early in his races and not shipping him to a track on top of a race.

“We felt he eliminated himself by not giving himself a chance getting away from the gate,” he said. “We took him back to the gate and pretty much started over.”

On the success of the Gun Runners, Asmussen said his offspring have the same mental attributes that the sire has, which goes a long way toward accounting for their success.

“It's the state of their minds, the acceptance of what their job is,” Asmussen said. “Gunite is the greatest example of what we want in a racehorse. Good level of talent, learns from his lessons and improves. [Assistant trainer] Scott [Blasi] and I were talking about him Tuesday morning. He ate up, and just stood there like he was saying 'when are we putting on the tack? When do we go to the track?' Unbelievable.”

When asked who he believed were his best prospects for next year's GI Kentucky Derby, Asmussen mentioned two horses, Saratoga maiden winner Stellar Tap (Tapit) and Gun Town (Gun Runner). Both are being pointed for the GIII Iroquois S. Sept. 18 at Churchill Downs. Stellar Tap is the horse who gave Asmussen his 9,446h career win, which pushed him past Dale Baird for No. 1 of all-time.

“Long term, we're very excited about both,” he said.

Elsewhere on the show, which is also sponsored by West Point Thoroughbreds, Woodford Thoroughbreds, Spendthrift Farm and Legacy Bloodstock, the writers reviewed the GI Jockey Club Gold Cup day card at Saratoga and the sensational performances from a pair of allowance horses who both earned 114 Beyer numbers over the weekend, Flightline (Tapit) and this year's greatest rags-to-riches story, Baby Yoda (Prospective).

The latest on the Jorge Navarro-Jason Servis case was a hot topic among the writers. The government released more wiretaps this week that caught the two miscreants discussing performance-enhancing drugs, oftentimes drugs they didn't know the name of and didn't know what they were for, yet still gave them indiscriminately to their horses.

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