A single-season record of 622 victories might have been all Steve Asmussen needed to win the Eclipse Award for leading trainer of 2008. However, being trainer of Curlin probably didn’t hurt either.
Remarkably, Asmussen hit the 600-win mark Dec. 18 to become the first trainer to win that many races in a year. The other 22 wins came in the final two weeks of 2008.
Asmussen, a 43-year-old native of Texas, called the accomplishment “a pretty amazing thing.” He credited his staff and owners.
“It is something that can only be done by having tremendous opportunities and a great team effort,” Asmussen told The Blood-Horse.
Asmussen’s operation is spread throughout North America. He has large stables in Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New York, and Texas, and recently expanded to Ontario, Canada.
Asmussen, known for developing 2-year-olds with a solid foundation of works, is a regular in major stakes around the country.
Asmussen, who previously topped the trainers’ list in 2003, had 3,002 starts and North American earnings of $24,235,247 in 2008. Runner-up was Todd Pletcher, the leading trainer by North American earnings each year from 2004-07 whose horses won 208 races from 1,090 starts for earnings of $13,784,546 last year.
Asmussen trained the recently retired Curlin, voted Horse of the Year and champion older male of 2008. Curlin won the Horse of the Year title for 2007 as well while being top 3-year-old male.
Including his victory in last year’s Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), Curlin earned $5,300,000 last year.
In 2008, Asmussen won races at a 21% clip in keeping with his career average, according to equinline.com. His horses won 81 black-type stakes last year and 19 graded stakes. Asmussen sent out 270 first-time starters and won with 47 of them (17%).
Asmussen credited his team, which includes assistant trainers Scott Blasi, Darren Fleming, and Toby Sheets.
“You are so appreciative of the time and effort toward quality,” he told The Blood-Horse. “It is not going to happen without them.”