By Nicholas Godfrey
USA: Steve Asmussen became only the second trainer in US racing history to train 9,000 winners in North America on Friday when Troy Ounce won the second race at Remington Park in Oklahoma.
“It’s an awfully significant achievement,” said Asmussen, 54. “I’m very proud. It’s truly amazing – it really is. It’s a whole lot of winning, man. It’s just very special – but as you know, it takes a tremendous effort from a lot of people who work for me.”
Asmussen, who also has two victories in Dubai with Curlin, is second on the all-time list in North America behind the late Dale Baird with 9,445, who was killed in a car crash in 2007.
Trainers: All-time career victories in North America
According to the Pagina de Turf website, the world leader is Peruvian-based Juan Suarez Villarroel with 9,665.
Based largely based at Mountaineer in West Virginia, Baird never trained a graded-stakes winner – in marked contrast to Asmussen, who is successful at all levels, numbering two Breeders’ Cup Classic victories, three Triple Crown races and Curlin’s Dubai World Cup among a multitude of top-level winners.
Horses trained by Asmussen have won the Horse of the Year award on four occasions: Curlin (2007, 2008), Rachel Alexandra (2009) and Gun Runner (2017).
“It would be very significant to be the all-time winningest trainer,” Asmussen added. “Been thinking about that ever since they started keeping track of wins. That’s why you send them out, to win. If it wasn’t important, they wouldn’t keep stats.”
Asmussen had started Friday on 8,998 career victories in North America before Stayin’ Out Late took the seventh race at Churchill Downs under Ricardo Santana.
The Hall of Fame trainer hit the 9,000-winner target with odds-on favourite Troy Ounce, who won a minor seven-furlong event for $7,500 claimers by three lengths under Stewart Elliott to provide Asmussen’s only victory from six runners at the Oklahoma venue. Elliott himself recently partnered his 5,000th winner.
Following in the footsteps of his brother Cash, Texas-based Asmussen started out as a jockey with 63 winners before turning to training. He recorded his first career success aged 20 in 1986 with the maiden Victory Halo at Ruidoso Downs.
“Back then I was just worried about getting win number two,” he said. “That didn’t come until the next year at Birmingham in Alabama.”
Now Asmussen has won two Eclipse Awards as champion trainer and led the way in races won nine times. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016.
According to Equibase, he has now been responsible for more than 43,600 starters.
• Visit the Remington Park website