Race of the Week 2017

Nehro a Pleasant Surprise for Asmussen

If anyone had asked trainer Steve Asmussen over the winter to pick a Triple Crown horse out of his stable, the name Nehro wouldn’t have come up.


Owned by Ahmed Zayat, Nehro didn’t make his race debut until last December, running fourth to Prime Cut in a six-furlong maiden sprint at Fair Grounds. From there he ran 10th of 11 in a one-mile event at Oaklawn Park in January before winning in a similar spot there four weeks later.


“When he came in, he was a nice horse,” Asmussen said. “We put a little time in him and felt like he would benefit from a little patience. We gave him time off in Kentucky and he came back in, and he has surprised us. He had one gate work over the winter in New Orleans that was impressive before he ever started, and a fairly good race for him first time out for a horse that you didn’t feel had a lot of speed.


“Justin Phillip was in New Orleans for Mr. Zayat, so we sent him up to Oaklawn. He got very tight off the race and didn’t run much, if at all. From that point, you’re further behind than where you want to be but, boy, he’s touched some markers and put himself in a very good position. He’s had three excellent races in a row with three second-place finishes, but we want to get over that hump. It’s time to win one of these.”


A son of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft, Nehro galloped 1 ½ miles on Friday and Asmussen planned to school him in the paddock during the afternoon card.


“Yesterday, with the heat, we were a little bit concerned, but the cooler weather today allows us the possibility,” he said. “All is good. The weather is way cooler today, a way better feeling day. The water the racetrack got seemed to tighten it up, and I think that was a positive. Hopefully, we’ll just have a good day tomorrow.”


Nehro was second by a neck in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and Grade 1 Arkansas Derby prior to his runner-up finish in the Kentucky Derby, where he was 2 ¾ lengths behind Animal Kingdom, and a neck in front of Mucho Macho Man. He is second choice on the morning line at 4-to-1.


“I think one of the things that has allowed him to be in the races that he has is his attitude,” Asmussen said. “He hasn’t been overwhelmed. The stage hasn’t been too big for him. He’s shown up.”


One of the country’s most prolific trainers in terms of wins, starts, and purses earned, the two-time Eclipse Award winner will be saddling a Belmont Stakes horse for just the second time. In 2007, Curlin was beaten a head by Rags to Riches, the first filly victress since 1905.


“I’ve been thinking a lot about Curlin this week,” Asmussen said. “I can’t believe it happened, but I watched it. It happened. She ran incredible. They came home in 48 [seconds] going a mile and a half. Some things are just completely out of your hands. The next day, the next week … four years later, and I still can’t believe he got beat. But he did.”




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