Asmussen Becomes Only Third Trainer to Win 600 Races at Churchill Downs

May 26, 2017

by Darren Rogers

Steve Asmussen became only the third trainer in Churchill Downs history to saddle 600 winners at the home of the Kentucky Derby when the Hall of Fame horseman won Friday’s second race with 2-year-old filly She’s a Julie.

Asmussen, 51, only trails fellow Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott (700) and Louisville native Dale Romans (685) for most wins as a trainer at Churchill Downs.

She’s a Julie ($8.40), a Kentucky-bred daughter of Elusive Quality who won the five-furlong sprint by 5 ¼ lengths in :58.68, was named in honor of Asmussen’s wife Julie, who was diagnosed with neck and throat cancer in September 2015. After months of radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, Julie Asmussen was cancer-free in March 2016.

Asmussen, a record 17-time training champion at Churchill Downs, won his first race at the Louisville oval on May 16, 1993 with Snake Eyes. He won his 100th local race in June 2003; 200th in June 2006; 300th in July 2008; 400th in May 2011; and 500th in May 2014.

Among Asmussen’s 600 Churchill Downs wins are 61 local stakes triumphs, including two victories in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI): Summerly in 2005 and Untapable in 2014. He also won 2008 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) with Horse of the Year Curlin and last fall’s Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) with Gun Runner.

His longtime Churchill Downs assistant is Scott Blasi.

Overall, Asmussen has won 7,644 races and his horses have amassed $256.7 million from 36,737 starts during a 30-year training career that began at New Mexico’s Ruidoso Downs in 1986. The two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer (2008-09) was enshrined in horse racing’s Hall of Fame last August.

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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