LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Steve Asmussen has accomplished just about every goal for a trainer in the course of his Hall of Fame career, with one notable exception: a victory in the Kentucky Derby.
Asmussen has three shots at that elusive goal on Saturday at Churchill Downs with Hence (15-1 odds), Lookin At Lee (20-1) and Untrapped (30-1).
A win by any would fill in the one thing missing from Asmussen’s resume.
“My health is good and I feel like I’m in the middle of this career,” Asmussen said. “It is the one major box that has not been checked off. We’ve had great fortune with multiple Horses of the Year and the other classic victories that we’ve had, the Eclipse Awards and the Hall of Fame. The Kentucky Derby would look really good to add to the list.”
And what an impressive list it is.
Asmussen, 51, is the leading active trainer, with more than 7,600 wins. He trails only the late Dale Baird (9,445 wins) on the all-time list.
He guided Curlin and Rachel Alexandra to Hall of Fame careers. Asmussen already has victories in the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, the other two legs of the Triple Crown.
The Derby is another matter. Asmussen has sent out 15 runners, with Nehro (2nd in 2011) his best finisher.
Of this year’s trio, Sunland Derby winner Hence looks like Asmussen’s best prospect.
“We know he’s fast,” Asmussen said. “It’s just a matter of managing his speed.”
Florent Geroux gets that assignment in the Derby.
Three years ago, Asmussen was mired in controversy when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals accused him of abusing horses in his care.
The major allegations he faced were investigated and dismissed by racing officials in Kentucky and New York. Asmussen paid a fine for minor violations and the issue faded.
The focus is now on ending the Derby jinx.
“I know how fortunate you are to be here,” Asmussen said. “I’m very appreciative of this opportunity.”