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Fair Grounds Must Pay Record Fine in Clean Water Act Settlement

By T. D. Thornton

In an attempt to resolve years of federal Clean Water Act (CWA) violations at its Fair Grounds racetrack in New Orleans, Churchill Downs Louisiana Horseracing Company, LLC, has agreed to pay a $2.7 million penalty–the largest civil fine ever paid by a concentrated animal feeding operation in a CWA matter.

Under the terms of the settlement announced Sept. 29 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), the limited liability company that runs Fair Grounds must also implement $5.6 million in operational changes and construction projects to eliminate the unauthorized discharges of manure, urine, and wastewater from the track’s stable area.

 

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Jockey Brian Hernandez Cleared To Resume Riding Thursday At Churchill

Just after hearing that his Kentucky Derby mount, Art Collector, wouldn’t be entered in the race due to a minor foot injury, jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. found out that he had tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. He was subsequently taken off all mounts at Churchill on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The 34-year-old rider then took an antibody test on Tuesday, which was also positive.

According to the Daily Racing Form, Hernandez consulted with both local health officials and Churchill representatives, and eventually it was decided to allow him to resume riding on Thursday, “on the basis that he is not an infectious danger to others.”

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Jockey Hernandez Tests Positive for COVID-19

Rider off Churchill Downs mounts Sept 1.

 

Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. reported Sept. 1 that he had tested positive for COVID-19, but that he is no longer contagious since he is also positive for the virus antibodies.

Hernandez was taken off the four mounts on which he was named for the Tuesday card at Churchill Downs that kicks off the week leading up to the rescheduled Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), and it was unclear when he would be able to resume riding. He had 25 mounts lined up for Sept. 1-4.

“We got the antibody results back,” Hernandez wrote in a text message. “I am positive for the virus but positive for the antibodies as well, which means I am no longer contagious. Now we are waiting for Churchill and the health department to tell us when we can go back to riding.”

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McConnell Announces Horseracing Integrity And Safety Act, New Independent Regulatory Authority

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced Monday, August 31, 2020, at a press conference in Lexington, his plans to introduce legislation in the U.S. Senate to help set national standards to promote fairness, increase safety, and help preserve Thoroughbred racing. The McConnell bill, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, will be introduced in September following the state-work-period. U.S. Congressman Andy Barr (KY-06) will introduce the companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Because of Kentucky’s leading role in this sport, Senator McConnell brought Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Breeders’ Cup, The Jockey Club, and other industry leaders together earlier this year to develop a solution to the challenges facing horse racing. A number of them joined Senator McConnell and Congressman Barr for today’s major announcement: Keeneland President & CEO Bill Thomason, Keeneland President & CEO-Elect Shannon Arvin, Churchill Downs Incorporated CEO William “Bill” C. Carstanjen, Breeders’ Cup President & CEO Drew Fleming, and The Jockey Club Vice Chairman William “Bill” M. Lear Jr.

“I’m proud to be joined by prominent horse racing leaders in Kentucky as they take the courageous step to increase nationwide safety standards for horses, jockeys, trainers, breeders, and fans. I’m grateful to Congressman Andy Barr for his strong leadership on this important issue,” said Senator McConnell.

Also announced was the launch of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, which will be an independent, non-governmental regulatory body responsible for improving current regulations bringing a new level of transparency. This Authority will also address medication use, track conditions and other safety standards to protect equine athletes. Senator McConnell’s Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act will provide federal recognition and enforcement power for the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority to develop uniform, baseline standards for horse racing.

“Kentucky is proud of our distinct horse racing traditions. We must address the challenges the sport faces so we can preserve our heritage and the jobs of over 24,000 Kentuckians who support it,” said Senator McConnell. “As Senate Majority Leader, I look forward to working with Congressman Barr and our colleagues across the aisle on our legislation to give federal recognition to the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority. Together, we can better protect every competitor and give each of them a fair shot at the Winner’s Circle.”

Congressman Barr said, “Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of work and negotiation to develop uniform racing standards under one independent regulatory body. The future of the sport depends on fair competition, a level playing field across state lines, as well as the safety and welfare of our equine and human athletes. Now is the time for the horse racing industry to embrace change that will attract a new generation of fans and solidify the future of this special sport. I want to thank Leader McConnell for his partnership on this effort and I look forward to moving this legislation across the finish line.”

“This groundbreaking legislation and the collaborative effort behind it speaks to the commitment those of us in the Thoroughbred industry have to establish uniform safety and integrity standards across the U.S. and bring American racing in line with international guidelines,” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. “We applaud the leadership of Senator McConnell and Congressman Barr, who share our passion for horse racing and a dedication to strengthening the future of this great sport.”

Churchill Downs Incorporated CEO William “Bill” C. Carstanjen said, “It is critical to the future of Thoroughbred racing that the safety and integrity of our sport be governed by world-class, uniform standards across the United States. The leadership of Senator McConnell and Congressman Barr has been instrumental in our shared goal of bringing the Thoroughbred industry together to achieve this goal.”

“This legislation gives us an opportunity to make the single most significant and far-reaching safety and integrity enhancement in the history of Thoroughbred racing by bringing our sport into the 21st century and protecting its future for generations to come,” said Drew Fleming, President and CEO of Breeders’ Cup Limited. “While there is more work to do both in Congress and in the racing community, we are now on the path to a safer and more transparent sport thanks to Senator McConnell’s leadership and ability to bring people together around this important non-partisan issue. It has been a privilege to work with Congressman Andy Barr, my Chairman Fred Hertrich and my trusted counterparts at Churchill Downs and The Jockey Club, among many others, to contribute to this initiative for the betterment of our industry.”

“The Jockey Club has long pursued a collaborative solution within our industry to establish national reforms ensuring clean competition and improved safety for horses and humans alike. We express our sincere thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and organizations such as Breeders’ Cup, Churchill Downs Inc., Keeneland, New York Racing Association, and The Stronach Group for working so closely with us on this legislation,” said Stuart S. Janney III, Chairman, The Jockey Club. “We strongly believe that the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is vital to developing uniform and effective medication and safety regulations that will enhance the integrity and safety of American horse racing and improve the sport.”

The Jockey Club Chairman continued, “We also applaud Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Andy Barr (R-KY) and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Martha McSally (R-AZ) for their support and devotion to horse racing and for introducing the original bill into the House and Senate. We will continue to work closely with Congressional co-sponsors, industry stakeholders and animal welfare organizations in our pursuit of national, uniform standards for drugs, medication, and safety in horse racing.”

“Without federal legislation mandating that USADA enact ‘clean’ drug rules, reliable testing, qualified labs and strict penalties for violators, the sport of American horse racing faces an uncertain future,” said Staci Hancock, Managing Member of the Water Hay Oats Alliance. “With Senator McConnell’s leadership and the continued efforts of Representatives Andy Barr and Paul Tonko in the House, WHOA’s members look forward to the day when our great sport can rebuild its reputation, protect our beloved horses and their jockeys, and reclaim racing’s place as one of America’s top spectator sports.”

Kitty Block, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said, “Senate Majority Leader McConnell has stepped up to end widespread doping in American horse racing and to address racetrack safety, the key contributing factors to fatalities on American racetracks. We cannot continue to look the other way when a racehorse is severely injured or killed during training or a race. This measure will advance necessary reforms that will make or break horse racing in the United States.”

In reaction to the news Monday, the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association distributed the following statement:

“Horsemen should view today’s developments with the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act with hope,” said NYTHA president Joe Appelbaum. “It’s been clear for a generation that a systematic approach to equine welfare is needed and this effort is a big step in that direction. The broad changes proposed today by Senator McConnell are a significant improvement on previous drafts of legislation and I’d like to personally commend the industry participants for working together to overcome their differences.

“The real work starts now, as we will need to not only pass this legislation but actually implement its proposals. NYTHA looks forward to working with all parties to ensure that horse racing has a worthy system ensuring the safety of our equine athletes and a level playing field. Our primary stakeholders, horsemen and bettors, deserve nothing less.”

The Stronach Group, via its 1/ST Racing brand, released the following statement of support from CEO Craig Fravel:

“1/ST RACING is committed to achieving the highest level of horse care and safety standards in Thoroughbred racing and we strongly urge Congress to consider the adoption of The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act that will introduce national policies to control medication and regulate anti-doping in the sport of horse racing.

“At 1/ST RACING our priority is to ensure the safety of our horses and riders and we believe that the investment into equine health and safety is not only the right thing to do, it is crucial to the future of Thoroughbred horse racing. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act recognizes that industry stakeholders including the owners, trainers, breeders, jockeys, and racetrack operators must be unified toward a new standard of equine health, safety and welfare.”

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club CEO Joe Harper provided the following statement after the news was announced:

“The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club (DMTC) applauds the introduction of federal legislation which will provide safety and welfare uniformity within the sport of horse racing.  DMTC’s commitment to the safety and welfare of our human and equine athletes is unwavering.  We are proud of the recent industry-leading medication reforms that have been implemented at Del Mar and at California’s other horse racing venues.  We urge Congress to support similar medication regulation for horse racing throughout the county.

“DMTC is a founding member of the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition and is accredited by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Safety and Integrity Alliance.  DMTC looks forward to continuing our work with other industry stakeholders, legislators and regulators to ensure our sport is conducted at the highest levels of safety and integrity.”

National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association CEO Eric Hamelback released the following statement:

“Today, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced his plans to introduce legislation that purports to set national standards to promote fairness, transparency, and increased safety in Thoroughbred racing.

Senator McConnell claims to have found compromise within the industry, yet no representative horsemen’s groups, horseplayers or veterinary leadership organizations seem to have been consulted in the collaboration. The National HBPA represents close to 30,000 owners and trainers who want nothing more than increased safety and integrity to secure the strength of the business and our industry.

The greatest concern of the National HBPA is protecting the health and safety of horses. If Senator McConnell is serious about hearing from tens of thousands of real Kentuckians, as well as horsemen across the country, we stand ready to meet with him. We certainly hope he will meet with us since those pushing this bill have mischaracterized the industry and our views in the past.

As CEO, I can tell you we were never consulted on the recently-announced Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act. Contrary to an erroneous statement made by another elected official at today’s announcement, the HBPA was not made aware of any “compromise” negotiations until a deal had already been reached, nor has the Board of the National HBPA even been asked for its support.

Because the legislative text has not yet been released, the National HBPA will reserve final judgement, but we caution our elected leaders to not be misled by the wealthy few who continue to promote federal legislation in service to their own, private interests. Based on what we heard today, we are concerned these elite few continue to hold the reins.”

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Churchill Downs Announces Updates To Kentucky Derby Safety Plan

Attendance Will Be Less Than 14% of Total Capacity from Event Record, Maximum of 40% of Seated Capacity; 

No General Admission; Infield Closed

Temperature Checks, Medical Screenings, Physical Distancing, Face Coverings Mandated 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020) – Churchill Downs Racetrack officials today released a detailed 62-page health and safety operations plan that will limit attendance to the 146th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on Saturday, Sept. 5 to less than 14% of total capacity from the 2015 attendance record.

The Kentucky Derby, first staged in 1875, is the longest continually-held major sporting event in the United States and was originally scheduled for May 5. A record crowd of 170,513 attended the event in 2015. Due to physical distancing protocols and other safety measures in place to mitigate the risks associated with COVID-19, less than 23,000 guests are expected Sept. 5 for the rescheduled Kentucky Derby 146.

There will be no General Admission this year. Churchill Downs stated in late June that General Admission would be limited to the 26-acre Infield. However, given current circumstances, pre-purchased General Admission tickets will be refunded, and the Infield will be closed.

Reserved seating will be limited to a maximum of 40% occupancy. Also, Standing Room Only or “Walk Around” tickets have been eliminated. All outdoor ticket holders will be reseated in a new comparable location either prior to or during the event to provide for maximum distancing.

Temperature checks, medical questionnaires, physical distancing and mandatory face coverings will be required upon entrance and movement within the 190-acre Churchill Downs. An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. Each guest will receive a courtesy “Healthy at the Track” bag, which will include a disposable mask, a pocket-sized hand sanitizer and a personal stylus for non-contact self-service wagering.

Compliance of Churchill Downs’ public safety measures is a condition of admittance and will be strictly enforced. Offenders will receive a warning; repeat offenders will be escorted from the property.

“The opportunity to safely welcome back a limited number of guests to Churchill Downs on the first week of September is a privilege that our team doesn’t take for granted,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery. “Our extensive plan meets or exceeds all recommended state and local guidelines. We’ve received an exceptional level of support from regulators, medical experts and public health authorities and we’ll continue to carefully work with them to ensure we’re doing everything we can to keep our customers, employees and communities safe.

“We will have fewer guests at this year’s Derby as reducing the size of the crowd is an important step to ensuring a safe environment. Medical best practices and protocols – many of which we have applied in consultation with experts both inside and outside the sports industry – will be implemented, and we’ll make adjustments all the way up to Derby Day as we find ways to improve and continue to adhere to ever-evolving best practices.

“The role of the Kentucky Derby and its importance to our community and the nation as a whole takes on even greater significance this year. Over the past several months, our country has faced both the spread of COVID-19 and a moment of national reckoning with racial inequities following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others. These important issues deserve thoughtful discussion, continued conversation and subsequent action. To this end, the atmosphere at this year’s Kentucky Derby will not be the celebration it normally is. However, we’re optimistic that this time-honored event, which belongs to our community and our country, will serve as a progressive unifying force that can help bring us together.”

Churchill Downs’ detailed 62-page health and safety operations plan was developed over the last four months in close collaboration with public health experts and other relevant stakeholders. Advice and counsel from the Louisville Metro Health Department along with key elements of Kentucky’s Healthy at Work guidance are incorporated throughout the document. This plan will allow Churchill Downs to safely and responsibly host Kentucky Derby Week (Tuesday, Sept. 1 through Saturday, Sept. 5) with a limited number of spectators. The original plan was approved by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear in late June, and this version exceeds all recommended state and local guidelines and is subject to continued review.

Highlights of the plan include:

• Attendance will be limited with no Standing Room Only or “Walk Around” tickets and a maximum of 40% occupancy of reserved seats.

• There will be no general admission tickets throughout Kentucky Derby Week. Attendance will be limited to guests with reserved seats. The Infield will be closed on Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby days.

• Wearing cloth face coverings will be mandatory throughout the entire venue, both indoors and outdoors, when not actively consuming food or beverage.

• Everyone entering Churchill Downs will be screened via a medical questionnaire and a contactless thermometer. Individuals with a temperature in excess of 100 degrees will be prohibited from entering Churchill Downs.

• Personal-use hand sanitizers will be provided upon entry and more than 500 hand sanitizing stations will be placed throughout the facility.

• Signage will be displayed throughout the venue to encourage healthy practices and staff and security will move about the facility to monitor conditions and assist customers.

• Access throughout the facility will be severely limited. Entry points to any seating sections beyond designated seating areas throughout the facility will be eliminated.

• Seating with up to 40% capacity will be repositioned to provide for greater distancing.

• Pari-mutuel tellers will be properly spaced and provided PPE for betting transactions. Guests are encouraged to wager online through TwinSpires.com, the official advance deposit wagering platform of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby.

• Options from concession stands will be limited to mostly pre-packaged foods. Plated meals and meal packages from pre-set menus will be served in other locations.

• With the reduced capacity, guest shuttles from offsite parking locations are being eliminated and guests are encouraged to utilize neighborhood-parking options. Refunds will be made to all attending ticket holders that had offsite parking included with a reserved seat.

• To reduce crowding, select Kentucky Derby Week activities have been eliminated including autograph signings, concerts in the Plaza, fashion contests, Taste of Derby, the Survivors Parade and the Red Carpet.

• Dawn at the Downs, the annual event to dine while observing morning workouts, has been moved to Monday, Aug. 31, and will be limited to guests with reserved seats; there will be no free general admission.

• Key programming elements will transition to digital platforms.

• The stable area will be restricted to essential personnel. Guests and parties in the stable area for morning workouts and during race days will be prohibited.

• Additional protocols for Stable Area personnel and race participants (jockeys, trainers, grooms, etc.) will be finalized in the coming days.

The full plan includes details on Churchill Downs’ protocols for facility sanitation, cleaning and disinfecting practices and workforce preparation training and deployment.

“For those guests who plan to join us for this year’s Derby, we promise you that we will make it a wonderful experience, and most importantly, we will make it as safe and comfortable as we possibly can,” Flanery said.

The complete safety operations plan can be viewed online at www.KentuckyDerby.com/DerbySafetyPlan.

NBC will televise coverage of the Kentucky Derby and undercard racing on Sept. 5 from 2:30-7:30 p.m. ET. The 146th running of the $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks, the Derby’s counterpart for 3-year-old fillies, will be televised Friday, Sept. 4 on NBCSN from 3-6 p.m. ET.

The Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying races are nearing completion. Saturday’s Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park is the final race on the extended schedule and will award 20-8-4-2 points to the top four finishers. The overwhelming early Kentucky Derby favorite is Sackatoga Stables’ Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law, who easily won last weekend’s Travers Stakes at Saratoga. Tiz the Law, trained by Barclay Tagg and ridden by Manny Franco, has won six of his seven career starts and $2,015,300. Other top Derby contenders include Blue Grass Stakes and Ellis Park Derby winner Art Collector; Santa Anita Derby winner Honor A. P.; and Haskell Stakes winner Authentic.

ABOUT CHURCHILL DOWNS RACETRACK

Churchill Downs Racetrack (“CDRT”), the world’s most legendary racetrack, has been the home of The Kentucky Derby, the longest continually held annual sporting event in the United States, since 1875. Located in Louisville, CDRT features a series of themed race days during Derby Week, including the Kentucky Oaks, and conducts Thoroughbred horse racing during three race meets in the Spring, September, and the Fall. CDRT is located on 175 acres and has a one-mile dirt track, a 7/8-mile turf track, a stabling area, and provides seating for approximately 60,000 guests. The saddling paddock and the stable area has barns sufficient to accommodate 1,400 horses and a 114-room dormitory for backstretch personnel. CDRT also has a year-round simulcast wagering facility. www.ChurchillDowns.com.

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Kentucky Derby, Oaks Will Have Spectators

Strict guidelines to be enforced; number of fans yet to be announced.

 

Churchill Downs Racetrack announced June 25 that after consultation with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and state public health officials, the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) and Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) will occur with spectators under strict guidelines.

Kentucky Derby Week will be held Sept. 1-5 with the Oaks set for Sept. 4 and the Derby Sept. 5.

The number of fans is yet to be announced.

“We truly appreciate the leadership of the governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear, and all of the hard work, collaboration and guidance that state and local officials and public health experts have provided us to safely and responsibly host Kentucky Derby week in September with spectators,” said Churchill Downs’ president Kevin Flanery. “Our team is deeply committed to holding the best Kentucky Derby ever, and we will take all necessary steps to protect the health and safety of all who attend and participate in the Derby.

“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic we have established a comprehensive set of operating procedures, which include a multitude of precautionary measures to be followed while fans are in attendance at our facility. We are determined to keep our customers, employees and communities as safe as we responsibly can.”

Churchill Downs’ plan was developed in conjunction with advice and counsel set forth by the Louisville Metro Health Department and Kentucky’s Healthy at Work guidance. Some of the steps that will be taken to ensure guest and employee safety include:

•    Venue capacity reductions to limit overall crowd density, including general admission, outdoor reserved seating, premium dining, and suites. More information on ticketing and seating areas will be released in the coming days and also will be sent directly to ticket holders.
•  General admission tickets will be limited to a specified number and only grant access to the infield. No general admission will be allowed in the “front side” or paddock areas of the facility.

•    Access throughout the facility will be limited.

•    Credentials for employees, media, and guests will be reduced.

•    Barn area access will be restricted to essential personnel. Guests and parties in the barn area for morning workouts and during race days will be eliminated.

•    Changes in venue operations to limit person-to-person touch points.

•    Team member protocols established to protect employees and guests.

•    A revised Fan Code of Conduct that establishes expectations for guests coming to the Derby.

•    Guests will be consistently and frequently encouraged to wear a mask at all times unless seated in their reserved seat or venue. This includes when:
Riding on a shuttle
Traveling through the venue
Going to the restroom
Placing an in-person wager
Purchasing food or beverages from a concession stand
Guests will be asked to wash their hands for 20 seconds or sanitize them frequently.
Guests will be encouraged to socially distance themselves from others when possible.

More detailed and additional information will be provided in the coming days online at http://www.KentuckyDerby.com/Updates.

“The impact of the Kentucky Derby extends well beyond the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs,” Flanery said. “It is an incredibly important time for the City of Louisville and the Commonwealth of Kentucky both culturally, economically and with respect to our time-honored traditions. Both employees and guests are asked to take an active role in following all guidelines. We must all do our part to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience.”

Tickets purchased for the originally scheduled Kentucky Derby Week dates are automatically valid for the new race dates. Guests may arrive on the new dates in September with their printed ticket or mobile ticket to be scanned for entry at the gates. Guests that have purchased a ticket and are not able to attend the newly scheduled race dates, can visit www.KentuckyDerby.com/TicketStatus for more information. Guests who purchased tickets from a vendor or secondary market website other than Churchill Downs, Ticketmaster.com or Derby Experiences must contact those sites directly. Churchill Downs is unable to process refunds for those tickets.

 

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Asmussen Surpasses Romans as Churchill Downs’ All-Time Leading Trainer

Jun 12, 2020

| Churchill Downs Communications

Hall of Fame horseman Steve Asmussen surpassed South Louisville native Dale Romans as the all-time leading trainer in Churchill Downs history when 4-year-old filly Drop Dead Gorgeous cruised to a 8 ½-length victory in Friday’s opener for win No. 738 beneath the historic Twin Spires.

“If anyone knows American horse racing, they know what Churchill Downs means to the sport,” Asmussen said. “This is a very significant honor. I know the people who have been in this spot before, and been here consistently, and for us to have won the most races is a very proud accomplishment.”

Asmussen, 54, tied Romans for the title on Thursday. Romans was the record-holder since Nov. 12, 2017 when he surpassed Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who was Churchill Downs’ all-time leader for more than 31 years.

Asmussen also won Friday’s second race with 2-year-old colt Hulen for win No. 739.

Born Nov. 18, 1965 in Gettysburg, S.D., Asmussen was destined for horse racing. His mother Marilyn (aka “Sis”) was a trainer and his father Keith was a jockey and trainer. For more than 50 years, they’ve managed one of the Southwest’s premier equine facilities known for boarding and breaking young horses, the Asmussen Horse Center and El Primero Training Center in Laredo, Texas.

Asmussen’s older brother Cash was the 1979 Eclipse Award-winning apprentice, a champion jockey in France and a winner of more than 3,000 races before his retirement in 2001.

Asmussen helped his parents around the stable by mucking stalls and walking horses at an early age. He’d later follow in his brother’s footsteps as a jockey and won his first race on April 4, 1982. He rode in New Mexico, California and New York and won 63 races and $687,224 before he was forced to retire from riding because he grew too big (note: today he stands over 6’0 tall and is about twice his former riding weight).

Asmussen took out his trainer’s license in 1986 and saddled his first winner on July 19, 1986 at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico at age 20.

Asmussen started some 2-year-olds during the 1987 Spring Meet but didn’t win his first race at Churchill Downs until six years later when 3-year-old gelding Snake Eyes, owned by Bradley M. Shannon, won a $41,420 allowance at 1 1/16 miles on turf under Pat Day on May 16, 1993. He paid $6 to win as the 2-1 favorite.

Asmussen’s first Churchill Downs stakes winner came with a horse that helped put him on the national map. Valid Expectations was a $596,092-earner, who in 1996, gave Asmussen his first two graded stakes wins: the Grade III Derby Trial on April 27 at Churchill Downs and later the Grade III Sport Page Handicap against elders at Aqueduct.

Since then, Asmussen has had a Hall of Fame career and was enshrined in 2016. A key player in his powerhouse operation is chief assistant Scott Blasi, a native of Caney, Kansas, who began working with Asmussen in 1996 and oversees his Churchill Downs stable at Barn 38.

Team Asmussen first brought a string to Churchill Downs for the 1996 Fall Meet and has been stabled at the Louisville racetrack annually since the fall of 1997. The first of his record 22 Churchill Downs training titles came at the 2001 Fall Meet.

Asmussen is a two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer and two-time national leader in money-won: 2008-09. He has trained North America’s Horse of the Year four times: Curlin (2007-08), Rachel Alexandra (2009) and Gun Runner (2017).

Top money-earning horses trained by Asmussen include Gun Runner ($15,988,500), Curlin ($10,374,000), Midnight Bisou ($6,709,000), Untapable ($3,926,625), Mitole($3,104,910), Rachel Alexandra ($2,548,376), My Miss Aurelia ($2,437,000), Regally Ready ($1,836,948), Creator ($1,610,320), Tapiture ($1,536,820), Zanjero ($1,507,487), Pyro ($1,469,883), Lookin At Lee ($1,338,135), Haynesfield ($1,319,481), Justin Phillip($1,293,437), Snapper Sinclair ($1,233,674), Mia Mischief ($1,224,934), Lady Tak($1,160,782), Tenfold ($1,094,390) and She’s a Julie ($1,022,880).

Asmussen also is a nine-time winner of the national training title in races won (2002, ’04-05, ’07-11 and ’13), including a record 650 wins in 2009. On Feb. 7, 2004, he won a North American record 10 races, including three stakes, from 16 starters at five racetracks (Delta Downs, Fair Grounds, Oaklawn Park, Sam Houston Race Park and Sunland Park).

His biggest wins include the Preakness twice (Curlin in 2007 and Rachel Alexandra in 2009), the Belmont Stakes (Creator in 2016), the Breeders’ Cup Classic twice (Curlinin 2007 and Gun Runner in 2017) and Dubai World Cup (Curlin in 2008).

At Churchill Downs, Asmussen seeks his first Kentucky Derby win – he’s finished second twice with Nehro (2011) and Lookin At Lee (2017) in 20 starts – but has won the Longines Kentucky Oaks twice with Summerly (2005) and Untapable (2014). Overall, he’s won 79 stakes races at Churchill Downs, which ranks second only behind Mott’s 95. He’s a two-time winner of the Stephen Foster (Curlin in 2008 and Gun Runner in 2017) and one-time winner of the Clark (Gun Runner in 2016).

Asmussen is rapidly closing on another significant career milestone. At the start of Friday, Asmussen had 8,867 career wins, which ranked second and was 578 victories behind all-time North American win-leader Dale Baird’s 9,445.

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La-bred Chimney Rock Digs In for Churchill Allowance Score

 

Three Diamonds Farm’s Chimney Rock, fourth in his season debut, rebounded with a fighting effort to eke out a narrow win May 17 in a turf sprint allowance for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs.

The 5 1/2-furlong dash was Chimney Rock’s first race back against Four Wheel Drive, who went 3-for-3 as a juvenile and defeated Chimney Rock by three-quarters of a length in the Nov. 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2T). While Four Wheel Drive was away slow from the rail as the 3-5 favorite, Chimney Rock stalked the pacesetter and fought for a head victory. Four Wheel Drive finished seventh. Jack and Noah, who showed the way through fractions of :22.85 and :46.20, proved to be a challenger to Chimney Rock but had to settle for second. Guildsman rallied from 10th to finish third, 3 1/4 lengths behind Jack and Noah.

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Horses Arrive at Churchill Downs From Fair Grounds

About 175 horses were scheduled to be on the grounds by the end of May 11.

The first horse vans began arriving at Churchill Downs‘ stable gate in the early morning May 11 from Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, with approximately 175 horses scheduled to be on the grounds by the end of the day, according to senior director of the stable area Steve Hargrave.

“We’re so glad to be coming home,” said trainer Greg Foley. Foley, whose family lives in Oldham County, Kentucky, experienced an unplanned, extended stay in New Orleans following the COVID-19 pandemic that delayed entry to the backside at Churchill Downs by nearly two months. Foley is annually one of the first trainers to arrive at Churchill Downs, and he held to tradition Monday as part of his string of horses were the first to arrive at 6 a.m. ET.

Other trainers to have horses that arrived Monday included Tom Amoss, Steve Asmussen, Mark Casse, Bret Calhoun, Steve Margolis, and Al Stall Jr.

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Churchill Backstretch to Open May 11, Fair Grounds Horses Will Be First In

By T. D. Thornton

Churchill Downs has been cleared by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear to open its backstretch area May 11 so long as the track adheres to enhanced pandemic precautions approved by the state.

Beshear announced the clearance Wednesday at his daily COVID-19 video press conference as part of a phased-in reopening for various state industries. Churchill followed up about an hour later with a press release that included specifics pertinent to horsemen.

Neither Beshear nor the track pinpointed an exact date for the return of live racing. But the Churchill release stated “it will be staged at a minimum of four days per week,” Thursday through Sunday.

The following is a listing of racetracks and when horses based there may return to the Churchill Downs stable areas between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.:

  • Fair Grounds (May 11-13)
  • Gulfstream Park, Tampa Bay Downs, and horses based at Florida training centers (May 14-16)
  • Oaklawn Park (May 17-19)
  • All other locales (May 20 onward)

 

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