Asmussen can set Oaklawn single-season record

By Robert Yates (Coady Media photo of Storms Home’s victory Sunday under Erik Asmussen)

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (Thursday, April 18, 2024) — The math is simple.

If Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen averages one victory over the final nine days of racing, he will set Oaklawn’s single-season record for trainers.

Asmussen recorded his meet-high 63rd victory Sunday when Storms Home ($31) won the seventh race, a $115,000 maiden special weight sprint for 3-year-olds under Erik Asmussen, the trainer’s youngest son. Sunday was the 55th day of Oaklawn’s scheduled 64-day meeting that ends May 5.

The late Cole Norman set Oaklawn’s single-season record for training victories (71) during the weather-shortened 49-day meeting in 2003. Steve Asmussen, who is aware of Norman’s total, already holds Oaklawn records for career victories (939), career stakes victories (112) and training titles (12).

“It would be nice,” Asmussen, 58, said Sunday morning. “I’m surprised we don’t already have it. Happy when they win, mad when they lose. It’s constant and continuous. Racing is so amazingly unique in that way.”

Asmussen was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2021-2022. Asmussen is already assured of the 2023-2024 title and is approaching his single-season Oaklawn record for purse earnings ($6,057,877), set in 2021. Asmussen has $5,467,893 this season. Asmussen’s personal Oaklawn record for victories (65) came at the 2021-2022 meeting.

Asmussen has 23 horses entered this week at Oaklawn (Friday-Sunday). He has already started a meet-high 378 horses – more than twice as many as No. 2 Ron Moquett of Hot Springs (179).

Storms Home represented the first career Oaklawn victory for Erik Asmussen, 21, who rides with a 7-pound apprentice allowance. Steve Asmussen’s oldest son, Keith Asmussen, is Oaklawn’s second-leading rider this season. He is 25.

Steve Asmussen saddled Storms Home for Texan Mike McCarty, a longtime client. Asmussen became the first trainer to reach 10,000 career North American victories when Bet He’s Ready, then owned by McCarty, broke his maiden Feb. 20, 2023, at Oaklawn.

Oaklawn was originally scheduled to race 66 days in 2023-2024 before losing five dates (Jan. 14 and Jan. 19-21) to winter weather. Weather also forced the cancellation of the final eight races at Oaklawn Sunday, Jan. 7. Two dates (April 7 and May 5) were added to help offset the cancellations. The meeting was originally scheduled to end May 4, Kentucky Derby Day.

Jennie Rees is a communications and advocacy specialist in the horse industry who spent 32 years covering horse racing for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal before taking a corporate buyout. In addition to handling communications for the Kentucky HBPA, Rees is Kentucky Downs’ publicity director, manages in-season racing publicity for Ellis Park and serves as a consultant to the National HBPA. Other projects include the Preakness Stakes, Indiana Grand’s Indiana Derby Week and work for various HBPA affiliates and horsemen’s associations.