Mr. Horse of the Year: Gun Runner elevates Asmussen again

December 20, 2017 09:54am

In a career that filled with so many achievements and some controversy, Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen will become the first trainer of four winners of the American Horse of the Year title in the Eclipse Award era when Gun Runner officially joins Curlin, the winner in 2007 and 2008, and 2009's Rachel Alexandra.

The Eclipse Awards were created in 1971 to unify the end-of-the-year American thoroughbred honors which had been previously sponsored by the
Daily Racing Form, the Thoroughbred Racing Association, and the Turf & Sports Digest.

To get a measure of the magnitude of this latest accomplishment of the 52-year-old Asmussen, one only needs to look at the list of other Hall of Fame trainers that he will surpass. With all of his Breeders’ Cup and Triple Crown race victories, D. Wayne Lukas has trained three Horses of the Year in Charismatic (1999), Criminal Type (1990), and Lady’s Secret (1986). Bob Baffert has trained two with American Pharoah in 2015 and Point Given in 2001.

In the Eclipse Award era, two-time Horses of the Year like Curlin are not uncommon with a distinguished list that includes California Chrome, Wise Dan, Cigar, John Henry, Affirmed and Secretariat. The great Forego won three in a row -- the first two for trainer Sherrill Ward and the third for Frank Whiteley, Jr.

Asmussen, who was inducted into the racing Hall of Fame in 2016, has won 7,875 races, which ranks second all-time and is first amongs active trainers. His horses have earned $269,562,145, third all-time and third in the list of current trainers. The earning totals for all-time and current trainers is the same with Todd Pletcher, Lukas, Asmussen, Baffert, and Bill Mott listed in order.

Shortly after graduating from high school in 1985, Asmussen began training. He got his first winner at Ruidoso Downs in 1986 and his first stakes winner the following year at the now defunct Birmingham Downs. Asmussen had to wait until 1996 to get a graded stakes victory with Valid Expectations in the Derby Trial. His initial Grade 1 win came in 1999, when Dreams Gallore won the Mother Goose.

To date, Asmussen has recorded 40 Grade 1 victories with 17 of them coming from his four Horses of the Year: Curlin (7), Rachel (5), and Gun Runner (5).

Asmussen, with his now-trademark flowing gray hair, has set the bar high for other trainers registering winners all over the country from the claiming ranks to the Horse of the Year.


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Meet Matt Shifman

Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs, Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.

Since 2012, Matt has been a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.

Recently, Matt helped launch Derby Day Racing, a new 2-year-old racing partnership, that just purchased a promising Lookin At Lucky filly named Sooner Schooner.

You may also know Matt by his Twitter, Facebook, and HRN screen nameAndyScoggin.

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