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.

This was a steppingstone and that’s all we needed. He’ll come back good. We wanted to run a good race. I don’t think the fans and everybody else could have had a better finish from the two horses they thought were going to run like they expected.

“Bolt hadn’t run in a while. I had one three-quarter work in him; this wasn’t the race we were looking forward to. We’re looking forward to the Santa Anita Derby (April 7) and then that next race that I won’t mention yet (Kentucky Derby May 5).”

Asked is this was the best he ever felt in defeat: “Oh, yes. Coming into this race, (he dragged them)

from the receiving barn to the paddock. In the Breeders’ Cup (Juvenile Nov. 4), his head came down a little bit, he didn’t have as much life. The horse is good right now. Hopefully, we’re moving forward and he’ll be at his best in a couple months. This horse has the heart of a lion. Nine weeks ago he was undergoing a nuclear scan and here we are today. Just being within a nose of Baffert, I’m happy.

“I wasn’t even thinking about the inquiry the whole time. I was just so proud of Bolt, and if he got moved up, he did. This wasn’t the race we were really pointing for. We want to go to the Santa Anita Derby, but getting moved up is awesome; we’ve got enough (Kentucky Derby qualifying) points (50).”

Mick Ruis, Bolt D'Oro Owner/Trainer, Winner San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita

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