Steve Asmussen

Steve Asmussen

Barbara D. Livingston

Asmussen Opens Division at Woodbine

Steve Asmussen was granted 30 stalls at Woodbine in Canada this year.

Trainer Steve Asmussen will have a division at Woodbine for the first time when the Toronto-area track opens its 167-day meet April 5.

Steve Lym, Woodbine's racing secretary and director of racing, said Asmussen was granted 30 stalls. Assistant trainer Darren Fleming will run the barn for Asmussen, who has had just eight starters at Woodbine but won the Victoria Stakes with shippers Chace City in 2006 and Kodiak Kowboy last year.

Kodiak Kowboy, who had made one start at Woodbine before the Victoria, met the two-start minimum for Sovereign Award consideration and was named Canada's champion 2-year-old male at year's end.

Asmussen said he had considered moving a division to Woodbine for a couple of years and was attracted to the Canadian facility because of the lucrative purses and the variety of race conditions offered. Woodbine in 2007 offered average daily purses of about $500,000 in U.S. dollars.

"We had sent a few horses there in the past and had some luck, and we thought we would give it a try," Asmussen said Feb. 7. "It is an absolutely beautiful facility, and I believe the management is very concentrated on the racing there. I truly believe Woodbine is one track where the slot machines have been used to improve the racing."

Asmussen said his stock at Woodbine would rotate based on the racing program. He noted horses in his current stable at Gulfstream Park in South Florida will be the first to fill the Woodbine stalls.

"We are in a position where we can transfer horses in and out based on the racing," Asmussen said. "I hope we'll be bringing the right kind of horses to get in there and win a few races. I'm very excited."

Concerning Horse of the Year Curlin, the trainer said the son of Smart Strike will put in his final work at Fair Grounds Feb. 12 and is scheduled to ship to Dubai Feb. 15. Assistant trainer Scott Blasi will travel with Curlin, who is scheduled to race Feb. 28 in a $175,000 race at 2,000 meters (the same distance as the group I DubaiWorld Cup—about 1 1/4 miles) at Nad Al Sheba in the hope it will set him up for the big race.

Asmussen will travel to Dubai to watch the Feb. 28 race. "Curlin is just a very special horse to be around," he said. "We all have high hopes for him."