Steve Asmussen, winner of the Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding trainer the past two years, is planning a 30-horse stable during Santa Anita's winter/spring meeting that begins Dec. 26.
Asmussen has conditioned the past three winners of the Horse of the Year Award and has led the nation in training wins five times since 2002. He has never before trained in Southern California on a regular basis.
Along with assistant Scott Blasi, Asmussen watched Dec. 9 as several of his runners went through their morning routines under sunny weather conditions at Santa Anita, which unveiled a new natural dirt racing surface Dec. 6. Asmussen's Southern California string will be headquartered in Santa Anita’s Barn 27.
“We want to do a better job on the top-end of racing,” said Asmussen. “We felt that over the winter this would give our young horses their best opportunity to grow and develop and be all they can be.
“We plan on having 30 horses here this winter, hopefully, they’re the right 30. This is a beautiful place. I think that there’s a little excitement going with the raise in purses and (with) going back to dirt. This is a great place to be this time of the year.”
Asmussen said that longtime clients Jess and Barbara Banke-Jackson, along with Ron Winchell, are among those owners for whom he will have horses at Santa Anita this winter.
“We think we’ve brought some nice horses…I think they have a lot of potential and if they continue to develop and go the right way, they could be any kind,” he said.
Asmussen indicated he would take a deliberate approach in the days to come.
“We want to see how the horses made the trip out here, (and to) see how they’re doing and get used to the racetrack gradually," he said. "We’re very pleased with how the horses have settled in and how their weight looks. I think that we’ll pick up their gallops over the next few days and look at it on an individual basis."
Asmussen is best known as the trainer of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin , who won the honor in 2007 and 2008, and of the recently retired filly, Rachel Alexandra, who was 2009’s Horse of the Year. He is from a racing family that is based in Laredo, Texas. His father, Keith, and mother, Marilyn, operate El Primero Training Center in Laredo.