Steve Asmussen became the first trainer to win 10,000 Thoroughbred races in North America when Bet He’s Ready won the fifth race at Oaklawn Park Feb. 20.
Asmussen also has two additional wins overseas, including Curlin’s victory in the 2008 Dubai World Cup.
A Hall of Famer, Asmussen became the winningest trainer in North American history on Aug. 7, 2021, when Stellar Tap won a maiden race at Saratoga Race Course, giving him his 9,446th win and pushing the late Dale Baird into second. Since then, Asmussen has continued to win races at a high rate, drawing ever closer to the latest milestone.
A 57-year-old resident of Arlington, Texas, Asmussen recorded his first victory in 1986 at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico with Victory’s Halo. That was the trainer’s only victory in 1986 from 15 starts, and his horses’ earnings on the year totaled a mere $2,324.
But those numbers would rise, and 10 years later, he scored his initial graded stakes victory when Valid Expectations won the Derby Trial Stakes at Churchill Downs. He now has 305 graded stakes wins through racing Feb. 20.
The trainer has twice won Eclipse Awards as outstanding trainer, doing so in 2008 and ’09, when his stable won more than 600 races each year.
Asmussen has long credited his staff — among them longtime assistants Darren Fleming and Scott Blasi — for contributing to his success, as well the support of his family. He learned about the racing business from his parents, Keith and Marilyn, who breed, own, train, and still operate Asmussen Horse Center and El Primero Training Center in Laredo, Texas. Under the tutelage of Keith, a former jockey, and Marilyn, he and his older brother Cash became horsemen at a young age.
His wife, Julie, and sons, Keith, Darren, and Erik, have also consistently supported him through his many days away from home while he attended to his many divisions of horses across the country. His wife and boys were in attendance when Asmussen passed Baird in the record books on Aug. 7, 2021. Keith, his eldest son, is currently a jockey.
Asmussen’s horses have made in excess of $405 million in North America, trailing only eight-time Eclipse Award winner and fellow Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher with $452 million.
He holds multiple training titles at Ellis Park, Fair Grounds, Keeneland, Lone Star Park, Monmouth Park, Oaklawn Park, Remington Park, Retama Park, Sunland Park, and Churchill Downs, where he is the track’s all-time winningest trainer.
In addition to his personal accomplishments, other career highlights for Asmussen include winning the 2007 and 2009 Preakness Stakes with Curlin and Rachel Alexandra, respectively, and the 2016 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets with Creator. Asmussen has won eight Breeders’ Cup races, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2007 with Curlin and again in 2017 with Gun Runner.
The Kentucky Derby is one of the few races that has eluded him. He came close to winning the Run for the Roses in 2022 when Epicenter led until being caught in the closing strides by late-running longshot Rich Strike.