Asmussen Pulling Away in Race for Churchill Downs’ Training Title

(Steve Asmussen leads the Trainer’s Title race at the current Churchill Downs meet / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)

Steve Asmussen had big hopes when 2018 started. He still had the great Gun Runner in his shed row, for a little while, as he got ready for the finale in the Pegasus World Cup. He had a barn full of 3-year-old colts, many of whom had the credentials to become contenders for this year’s Triple Crown series. He a top end filly in Mia Mischief, who some considered a top filly, and many thought may end up in the Kentucky Oaks.

Well, Gun Runner soon departed the Asmussen barn for the greener pastures of stud duty at Three Chimneys Farm. Tenfold, with his third place finish in the Preakness Stakes, did emerge as the barn’s top 3-year-old, instead of Reride, Combatant, Tap Daddy, Zing Zang, and others. And, Mia Mischief did win on KY Oaks Day — but it was in impressive fashion in the G2 Eight Belles Stakes, instead.

Still, don’t ever discount the talented Hall of Fame trainer. Never.

After Sunday’s races were concluded, Team Asmussen has now started to pull away in the race for the Trainer’s Title at the current Churchill Downs’ Spring/Summer Meet. With just two weeks left, Asmussen has build a powerful resume of 22 wins, 13 seconds and 9 thirds in the first 82 mounts this meet.

That gives the native Texan a commanding 5-win lead over Louisville’s own Brad Cox, who has put up 17 wins, 10 seconds and 8 thirds in 62 saddle jobs this meet. Alone in third is Eddie Kenneally, who has an amazing record of 16-4-5 in only 37 mounts this meet. That has added up to a win percentage of .43%, and his horses have hit the board on a lofty 68%.

Fourth in the trainer’s standings is Ken McPeek, who has earned 14 wins, and one back, in fifth, is Ian Wilkes, who has 13.

Bob Baffert — who has just two wins in 15 starts this meet, but made it count with a victory in the Kentucky Derby with the great Triple Crown winner Justify — still leads the trainer’s colony in terms of purses won. Baffert’s horses have amassed over $1.563 million in purses. Cox is second in that category with over $1.442 million in purses won.

Here’s a closer look at the Top 25 Trainers this meet:

1Bob Baffert15213$1,563,13113%40%
2Brad H. Cox6217108$1,442,04527%56%
3Steven M. Asmussen8222139$915,15827%54%
4Mark E. Casse531059$878,76419%45%
5Chad C. Brown12132$856,9888%50%
6Brendan P. Walsh489810$666,79619%56%
7Ian R. Wilkes7013106$623,68919%41%
8George R. Arnold, II29853$538,94428%55%
9Todd A. Pletcher17221$531,35212%29%
10Kenneth G. McPeek60141210$523,81323%60%
11William I. Mott23435$489,18717%52%
12Ben Colebrook23433$467,04017%43%
13Eddie Kenneally371645$463,64543%68%
14Dale L. Romans431163$391,92426%47%
15Michael J. Maker591097$384,54917%44%
16Doug F. O’Neill7111$344,60314%43%
17Albert M. Stall, Jr.27885$301,52330%78%
18Chris A. Hartman41828$237,97120%44%
19Michael A. Tomlinson341031$223,63229%41%
20Wayne M. Catalano26475$220,00415%62%
21D. Wayne Lukas27155$216,7164%41%
22Joe Sharp24605$198,26025%46%
23W. Bret Calhoun23412$194,57317%30%
24Wesley E. Hawley11220$187,01218%36%
25Dallas Stewart32345$186,0999%38%

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
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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