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.

“It was a thrilling stretch run,” said winning trainer Chad Brown. “I feel so fortunate she came out on top. She showed her heart and determination. I’m just so proud of my filly, how she showed so much heart to come out on top there. I thought Jose rode such an outstanding race from start to finish. They’re a good combination, those two.”

“Last time, we just wanted to get her started,” Brown said. “This filly was injured after her run in the Breeders’ Cup last year and had been going under a lot of rehab and patience to bring her back. To bring her back to her race at Belmont and to have her stumble so bad out of the gate, she came back a little banged up. She grabbed her quarter, had a bunch of scratches all over her.

“I actually wasn’t sure I’d make the Test with her. Then she came around a couple of weeks later, started breezing again, got to feel her health again, and we came back with a beautiful clean break and a good run.

Chad Brown, Trainer of the winner Separationofpowers

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