Asmussen’s Oaklawn Milestone 

April 18, 2024

Steve Asmussen (Coady Photography)

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Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

The math is simple.

If Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen averages one victory over the final nine days of racing, he will set Oaklawn’s single-season record for trainers.

Asmussen recorded his meet-high 63rd victory Sunday when Storms Home ($31) won the seventh race, a $115,000 maiden special weight sprint for 3-year-olds under Erik Asmussen, the trainer’s youngest son. Sunday was the 55th day of Oaklawn’s scheduled 64-day meeting that ends May 5.

The late Cole Norman set Oaklawn’s single-season record for training victories (71) during the weather-shortened 49-day meeting in 2003. Steve Asmussen, who is aware of Norman’s total, already holds Oaklawn records for career victories (939), career stakes victories (112) and training titles (12).

“It would be nice,” Asmussen, 58, said Sunday morning. “I’m surprised we don’t already have it. Happy when they win, mad when they lose. It’s constant and continuous. Racing is so amazingly unique in that way.”

Asmussen was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2021-2022. Asmussen is already assured of the 2023-2024 title and is approaching his single-season Oaklawn record for purse earnings ($6,057,877), set in 2021. Asmussen has $5,467,893 this season. Asmussen’s personal Oaklawn record for victories (65) came at the 2021-2022 meeting.

Asmussen has 23 horses entered this week at Oaklawn (Friday-Sunday). He has already started a meet-high 378 horses – more than twice as many as No. 2 Ron Moquett of Hot Springs (179).

Storms Home represented the first career Oaklawn victory for Erik Asmussen, 21, who rides with a 7-pound apprentice allowance. Steve Asmussen’s oldest son, Keith Asmussen, is Oaklawn’s second-leading rider this season. He is 25.

Steve Asmussen saddled Storms Home for Texan Mike McCarty, a longtime client. Asmussen became the first trainer to reach 10,000 career North American victories when Bet He’s Ready, then owned by McCarty, broke his maiden Feb. 20, 2023, at Oaklawn.

Oaklawn was originally scheduled to race 66 days in 2023-2024 before losing five dates (Jan. 14 and Jan. 19-21) to winter weather. Weather also forced the cancellation of the final eight races at Oaklawn Sunday, Jan. 7. Two dates (April 7 and May 5) were added to help offset the cancellations. The meeting was originally scheduled to end May 4, Kentucky Derby Day.

Milestone Watch

Just one to go for jockey Nik Juarez.

Juarez recorded his 999th career North American victory when favored Absolute Chaos captured Sunday’s fifth race, according to Equibase.

Juarez, 30, rode Absolute Chaos ($4.80) for trainer Shea Stuart and owner Danny Keene. Juarez’s 998thvictory came in Saturday’s 12th race aboard Clear Echo ($104.80) for Stuart.

Absolute Chaos was Juarez’s third and final mount Sunday. He is named on 14 horses this week at Oaklawn, including 2-1 program favorite Greek Heiress in Friday’s first race for trainer Lindsay Schultz.

Absolute Chaos represented the jockey’s 18th victory of the meeting and 50th overall at Oaklawn. He is tied for ninth in the 2023-2024 standings. Juarez rode 32 winners in his Oaklawn debut last season after previously being based on the East Coast and in the Mid-Atlantic.

A high school wrestler, Juarez rode his first career winner Dec. 14, 2013, at Laurel. He ranked 22nd in North America (United States and Canada) in victories (187) and 28th ($6,459,719) in purse earnings in 2017.

Juarez will be based at Monmouth Park after Oaklawn’s 2023-2024 meeting ends May 5. Juarez has 430 career victories at Monmouth Park.

Finish Lines __________________

Racing resumes Friday at 12:35 p.m. (Central). … 

Kaboom Baby will likely make her next start in the $150,000 Natural State Breeders’ Stakes for Arkansas-bred fillies and mares, 3 and up, at one mile May 3, trainer Ernie Witt II said. Kaboom Baby won the 2023 Natural State. Kaboom Baby ($495,159) is chasing The Mary Rose to become the leading accredited Arkansas-bred female money winner in history. Now retired, The Mary Rose ($539,894) won the 2022 Natural State. … 

Trainer Randy Morse said he hopes to run Connie K, another candidate to break The Mary Rose’s record, before the meeting ends May 5. Connie K has $502,195 in career earnings. … 

Jockey Harry Hernandez served a one-day suspension Sunday. Oaklawn stewards cited Hernandez for careless riding in the third race April 5 after his mount, Henro, was disqualified from second and placed fifth for interference in midstretch. Hernandez has 23 victories this season, his Oaklawn debut, to rank eighth in the standings. … 

Hernandez guided Jackman ($7) to a one-length victory in the $50,000 Highland Ice Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs Tuesday at Will Rogers Downs. Jackman (four victories) is the winningest horse at the 2023-2024 Oaklawn meeting. Hernandez rode Jackman for co-owner/trainer Greg Compton, who annually winters in Hot Springs.

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