Max Player changing barns ahead of Kentucky Derby

Max Player changing barns ahead of Kentucky Derby
Photo: Elsa Lorieul/NYRA

Shocking news hit the Kentucky Derby Trail on Tuesday as it was announced that George Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbreds' Kentucky Derby contender Max Player will be switching barns from Linda Rice to Steve Asmussen ahead of the Grade 1 race.

Max Player, who has steadily improved in his 3-year-old season, was third in both the Belmont Stakes and the Travers Stakes following a win in the G3 Withers.

Rice broke the news on her Twitter, writing, "We are disappointed to see him go, but we wish George Hall and SportBLX the best of luck."
It is extremely rare for a trainer change to take place this close to the Derby, especially for a horse who sits in ninth place on the Derby points leaderboard.

"I think Linda Rice did a great job with this horse," Hall said in an email. "Even though Tiz the Law beat him twice, he's progressed every step of the way. He continues to improve and we're hoping he will improve even more in the Kentucky Derby."

Max Player will be on his way to Kentucky in the next day or so, which will allow him to get acclimated to the track, Hall said.

Steve Asmussen "has won a lot of races at Churchill Downs, and as far as I could tell he seemed to be the best fit
," Hall explained. "I talked to a lot of people and got a lot of advice."

Hall owns Max Player along with Sport BLX Thoroughbreds, a racing syndicate that has hundreds of owners invested in Max Player. "All of the owners are really excited. This was always our plan to continue on the Derby trail. As long as he qualified and was sound and fit with these horses, we wanted to run in the Kentucky Derby." 

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