Steve Asmussen capped his stellar 35-year horse training career with the ultimate honor on Saturday when he set the mark for most all-time wins by a North American after Stellar Tap placed first under Ricardo Santana Jr. as a 5-1 shot in a $100,000 maiden race at Saratoga.
The win was the 9,446th victory for Asmussen, breaking the mark established by Dale Baird in a 57-year career that ended with his death in 2007, according to Equibase.
“God is great,” said Asmussen, fighting back joyful tears on the “Saratoga Live” telecast right after the race. “I’ve just been unbelievably blessed. A 2-year-old that started at Mom and Dad’s (Texas) farm here today on Whitney day. I think everything that we’ve done is made possible by their support.”
Baird’s Son Comments on Record
Baird’s son Bart Baird works as a member of the starting gate crew at Colonial Downs.
“Someone was going to beat it eventually,” Bart said on a Colonial Downs Facebook post about the record. “Give the man (Asmussen) credit. He deserves it. He’s doing it. Dad did it in a different era. He owned and trained his own horses. He even bought his own. It’s an honor to be his son.”
Asmussen had tied the record less than a day earlier when Rafael Bejarano rode 4-year-old colt Shanghai’s Dream to victory in a claiming race at Ellis Park in Kentucky.
A Hall-of-Famer and Then Some
Asmussen, 55, is a native of Gettysburg, S.D., and grew up in Laredo, Texas. He held the record for most training wins in a calendar year with 555 in 2004. He broke it in 2008 with 621 and then again in 2009 with the current mark of 650. In 2016, he was elected into the National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame.
Asmussen has won seven times in the Breeders’ Cup, twice in the Preakness and once in the Belmont Stakes.
Colonial Downs’s paddock announcer Jessica Paquette said Asmussen “cemented a legacy in the history books, and it is a well-deserved honor. He’s a true hands-on horseman, and I admire his continued support of small circuits as well as his success on the biggest stages.”
Another Record in His Sights
Although he has said his next goal is to win a Kentucky Derby, a race in which he is 0-for-23, Asmussen also has his eye on the world record of 9,881 victories held by Juan Suárez Villarroel, an active trainer based in Peru. Suárez Villarroel is winning at about half the rate Asmussen has been in recent years, so that record could fall by early 2023.