Trainer Steve Asmussen told NBC Sports Network in a segment aired May 2 that the allegations made against him by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are untrue, and he hopes to have the chance to defend himself in court.
Asmussen, who won the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs with Winchell Thoroughbreds' Untapable shortly after the interview aired, was queried by Bob Costas. It was the first time the two-time Eclipse Award winner had discussed the situation at length with the media.
A woman posing as a stable worker gained access to Asmussen's barns at Churchill and Saratoga Race Course last year and secretly videotaped activities. PETA, in late March, released a 9 1/2-minute video to the New York Times, which subsequently wrote a story about the group's allegations and its legal complaint.
Costas asked Asmussen about the allegation of horse abuse.
"It's misleading, untrue, and completely false," Asmussen said. "If you read the complaint there's not one actual rule violation. The most bothersome thing about this is for anybody to think I'm not a good caregiver (to horses)."
Asmussen told Costas a comment by Jockey Club chairman Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps suggesting he should stay away from Churchill for the Oaks and Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), in which he will saddle Winchell Thoroughbreds' Tapiture, was "very disappointing. I wish he would read over the actual allegations."
Asmussen said top assistant Scott Blasi, who was the focus of the PETA video, was relieved of his position because his comments on the video were "extremely disrespectful to an owner of ours." That would be a reference to Zayat Stables, which subsequently removed its horses from Asmussen's barn.
When asked by Costas about defending himself against the complaint, Asmussen said: "Hopefully I do get a chance (to go to court)—and not just to defend myself." The trainer then said PETA's activities have opened the organization up to counter charges.
PETA turned over its evidence to regulators in New York and Kentucky, where investigations continue. The activist organization didn't stage any protests at Churchill on Oaks day.