Asmussen’s Oaklawn Milestone

April 22, 2023

Coady Photography

Asmussen Becomes Oaklawn’s Winningest Trainer With Red Route One’s Bath House Row Win 

Cox Sets Stakes Record In Valley Of The Vapors

Oaklawn Press Release

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who has had a milestone-filled meet, reached another milestone Saturday when Winchell Thoroughbred LLC’s Red Route One made him the winningest trainer in Oaklawn’s history with the victory in the $200,000 Bath House Row Stakes. It was career win 868 for Asmussen, who had tied the late Bob Holthus with a win on Friday. On Feb. 20, Asmussen became the first trainer in North America to reach 10,000 career wins when Bet He’s Ready won at Oaklawn. 

Red Route One fights for victory. (Coady Photography)

In the Bath House Row, Red Route One fell back early and raced in last place while Victory Formation led the field through fractions of :22 4/5 and :46 4/5 for the first half mile. Victory Formation held a narrow lead over his stablemate, Tapit Shoes, entering the stretch and the two battled towards the wire. Tapit Shoes began to edge clear before being caught in the final jump by Red Route One, who got up late by a head. Victory Formation was third. The winning time was 1:50 4/5 for 1 1/8 miles over a fast track.

The win gave jockey Joel Rosario a sweep of all three stakes on Saturday’s card. He also won the $150,000 Valley of Vapors with Merlazza and the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) with Proxy.

“I always had confidence in the horse,” Rosario said of Red Route One. “It looked like when we got to the sixteenth pole that we had the race won. Then, they kept moving. But he gave everything to me. It was just a close race.”

Merlazza. (Coady Photography)

Red Route One, who was winning for the second time in nine starts, earned an automatic berth to the Preakness Stakes (G1) May 20 with the win.

In the Valley of the Vapor Stakes, Merlazza closed late to win by one length over the front-running Pink Ace to give trainer Brad Cox his record ninth stakes win at the meet. Among his biggest wins were the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) with Angel of Empire and $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) with Wet Paint. 

Live racing resumes Sunday with a 12:30 p.m. first post. After Sunday, there are just two more weekends of racing at Oaklawn, which concludes its 2022-2023 live season Saturday, May 6.  

Stakes Quotes

Winning trainer Steve Asmussen: “He ran straight through the wire. He ran straight through the wire. He still gallops out so huge. It feels like there’s more there. Maybe the victory, maybe the winning … Joel (Rosario) gave him a dream trip. I think that he waited until the (Kenny) McPeek horse (Interlock Empire) ran up outside of him and then just got some momentum with him.” 

NOTE: Red Route One will be considered for the Preakness, Asmussen said. Earned automatic entry with the victory.

Winning jockey Joel Rosario: “I always had confidence in the horse. It looked like when we got to the sixteenth pole that we had the race won. Then, they kept moving. But he gave everything to me. It was just a close race.”

@jonathanstettin great read as always!

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