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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Past the Grandstand

Asmussen's Master Rick Sweeps the Texas Two-Step

Master Rick 615 X 400
Photo: Terri Cage
Texas racing has sunk to perhaps the lowest level it has ever reached, but on days like Memorial Day at Lone Star Park, Texas enthusiasts of the sport of kings have the chance to relish racing that is higher quality than what has become the norm. Once a day that featured multiple graded stakes races and other black-type events, the racing on Memorial Day 2013 at Lone Star Park had only a single saving grace: the $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap (GIII).

Although the race attracted just five competitors (one of which – Battle Hardened – was scratched), the horses that had aligned for the rich Texas contest were a strong group that exuded class. Altogether, the four horses that remained in the field boasted $2,139,213 in earnings, four graded stakes victories, and five additional black-type scores.

Fifty-percent of the field belonged to Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen, the all-time leading trainer in wins at Lone Star Park who has saddled more than 1,000 winners at the Grand Prairie, Texas track. The Texas native has conditioned many classy horses, including Horse of the Year honorees Curlin and Rachel Alexandra, and has stood in the winner’s circle for many prestigious races, such as the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI), Preakness Stakes (GI), and Kentucky Oaks (GI), but the biggest prize at his home track of Lone Star Park – the Lone Star Park Handicap – has eluded Asmussen.

Much like triumph in Lone Star’s premier stakes race has evaded Asmussen, a sweep of the Texas Two-Step – or wins by a horse in both the Texas Mile Stakes (GIII) and the Lone Star Park Handicap within the same year – has been dormant since 2001, when the California-based Dixie Dot Com captured the pair of Texas graded stakes events by a combined 13 ¾ lengths.

But unlike the Triple Crown, these droughts reached an end this year. In a race that was clearly ruled by Asmussen, Master Rick and Prayer for Relief – both graded stakes-winning Asmussen trainees – were sent off at the lowest prices in the miniscule field. Favoritism rested upon the shoulders of Master Rick, a four-year-old Master Command colt that had conquered the Texas Mile a month prior over stablemate Prayer for Relief.













The pair was drawn to the outside and as Prayer for Relief was directed to press the pace set by Isn’t He Clever, Master Rick settled into third behind the leaders, relaxing off the steady pace. Three lengths separated the favorite from the pacesetters at the culmination of the initial quarter-mile and the gray Asmussen trainee remained in that position down the backstretch.

As stablemate Prayer for Relief commenced a stunning rally around the far turn to overtake Isn’t He Clever, Master Rick gradually began to shift into gear. Outside the quarter pole, he found his best stride as jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. guided him to the outside as the horses turned for home. Soaring past Prayer for Relief at the top of the stretch, Master Rick appeared prepared for a demolition of the small field that faced him. But his stablemate offered a strong fight, threatening his lead within the final furlong. However, Master Rick was not to be denied and held clear to win by a length.

Master Rick returned to the front side triumphantly, and as his connections openly celebrated the win, Steve Asmussen looked on as the gray colt received the blanket of flowers, entering the winner’s circle to the cheer of the crowd that was gathered around the enclosure. At last, Asmussen could claim a Lone Star Park Handicap victory – and a one-two finish at that. And at last, Texas racing fans could savor a sweep of the Texas Two-Step. 


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About Mary Cage


Mary with champion Classic Empire

Mary Cage, a 21-year-old avid fan of horse racing, has been around horses all her life, having owned, shown, and judged them for as long as she can remember. She began writing her own horse racing blog, Past the Grandstand, in August 2011 and has since been published in America's Horse, American Racehorse and the Appaloosa Journal, as well as with the websites of The Blood-Horse and The Equine Chronicle. She has also had photos published with Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Daily News. In addition, she works as one of the social media coordinators for the Texas Thoroughbred Association and has interned at WinStar Farm with a marketing focus - with projects involving photography, videography, giving tours, data entry, etc. 

In her personal horse experience, Mary has been around horses all her life and has won several Appaloosa National Champion and Reserve World Champion titles in the show ring. She has also worked as a hotwalker and groom.

Mary has always aspired to have a career with horses and since her love for horse racing began, she has dreamed of pursuing a career in the Thoroughbred racing industry, possibly as a writer/photographer and marketing/communications specialist. She is currently attending the University of North Texas, where she is a journalism major with a concentration in advertising and a minor in marketing. With this blog, she hopes to show readers horse racing through the eyes of a young fan and transport you to some of racing's biggest events through her photos and words.

University of Louisville College of Business Equine Program

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