Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen became the all-time winningest thoroughbred trainer in North America when he won the 9,446th race of his career on Whitney Day at Saratoga Race Course, eclipsing the mark of 9,445 victories held by the late Dale Baird since 2007.
Asmussen, who was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2016 and won the Eclipse Award as Outstanding Trainer in 2008 and 2009, broke the long-standing record when Stellar Tap won the day’s fifth race, a seven-furlong sprint for 2-year-olds.
“To be surrounded by people you love and who love you, and you have a common goal, it’s impossible to put into words what horse racing means to me and my whole family and to all the employees. They’re family and they know so and are treated as such,” said an emotional Asmussen in a winner’s circle ceremony.”
L and N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Stellar Tap, a first-time starter with Ricardo Santana, Jr. in the irons, tracked the early speed of Brigadier General through the opening quarter-mile before taking command and extending his lead to 5 1/4-lengths at the finish.
“How fitting to do this with a 2-year-old owned by the Winchells and who came through Mom and Dad’s farm in Laredo and on Whitney Day. I was definitely blessed,” Asmussen said. “I’m very proud of where I came from and don’t ever want to forget it. It makes you who you are. I love to be able to share this with my parents.”
Bred in Kentucky by Moyglare Stud Farm, Stellar Tap was purchased for $250,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Sent to post at odds of 5-1, Stellar Tap returned $13 for a $2 win bet.
“I’m very grateful to be the one who helped him break the record. He’s a part of the family. He took me in since I was a little kid and he’s really shown me a lot of support throughout my career,” Santana, Jr. said. “I was really happy with that baby. I went by the barn this morning and I told Steve how much I liked the horse. He was working crazy good.”
Asmussen has trained the Horse of the Year four times [Curlin in 2007-08, Rachel Alexandra in 2009, and Gun Runner in 2017], and conditioned seven Eclipse Award winners in Curlin, Rachel Alexandra, Gun Runner, Untapable, Mitole, Midnight Bisou, and My Miss Aurelia.
His record-setting 9,446 victories include seven Breeders’ Cup wins, encompassing two in the Classic with Curlin in 2007 and Gun Runner a decade later in 2017; two Preakness wins with Curlin in 2007 and Rachel Alexandra in 2009; and one Belmont Stakes win with Creator in 2016.
Asmussen, 55, took out his jockey’s license at age 16 and after growing out of the saddle he became a trainer in 1986. He won his first race that year at New Mexico’s Ruidoso Downs with Victory’s Halo and earned his first stakes score in 1987 with Scout Command in the Bessemer Stakes at the now-defunct Birmingham Race Course in Alabama. His first graded stakes victory was with Valid Expectations in the 1996 Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.
His first Grade 1 score came with Dreams Gallore in the 1999 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park.
Over the course of his Hall of Fame career, he has recorded almost 46,000 starts for purse earnings of more than $361 million at tracks across the country.
Asmussen and his wife, Julie, are the parents of sons Keith, Darren, and Eric. He is the son of Keith and Marilyn Asmussen, who own and operate the El Primero Training Center in Laredo, Texas, and is the younger brother of the 1979 Eclipse Award-winning Apprentice Jockey Cash Asmussen.
NYRA Press Release
Photo: Steve Asmussen ( Chelsea Durand Photo)