Already the all-time winningest trainer in North American racing history, Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen has been zeroing in on another feat – a 10,000th career victory. The only question was exactly when he would achieve that stratospheric number, and the countdown meter was stuck at 9,999 for a couple of days. The milestone finally came courtesy of the aptly-named Bet He’s Ready on the Presidents’ Day card at Oaklawn Park.
Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., aboard for Asmussen’s record-breaking 9,446th win, played a role in number 10,000 as well. He sent even-money favorite Bet He’s Ready straight to the lead in Monday’s fifth race, a $40,000 maiden claimer, and never looked back. Mike McCarty’s four-year-old son of More Than Ready drew off by 3 3/4 lengths and completed six furlongs in 1:10.58. Santana was simultaneously scoring a notable win on his personal ledger, his 700th in Hot Springs.
Asmussen was surrounded by his family as Oaklawn marked his latest record-setting occasion. Having trained Hall of Famers Curlin and Rachel Alexandra, their fellow Horse of the Year Gun Runner, and such champions as Mitole, Jackie’s Warrior, Untapable, My Miss Aurelia, Midnight Bisou, Echo Zulu, and recently-crowned Epicenter, Asmussen continues to compete at all levels of the game, on smaller circuits and grand venues alike.
Bet He’s Ready was an appropriate winner for a reason beyond his name. He was bred by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, long associated with Asmussen from the days of Curlin and Rachel Alexandra.
Out of the Grade 3-winning Forestry mare Separate Forest, Bet He’s Ready is a half-brother to multiple stakes-winning and Grade 2-placed turf performer Hendy Woods. As a footnote to his memorable victory, the colt was claimed by trainer Matt Shirer and new owners Jeremy Sussman, Ten Strike Racing and Corey Moelis Racing.
Asmussen’s 10,000 wins include eight Breeders’ Cup races, two editions of the Preakness (G1), and one Belmont (G1). Epicenter came agonizingly close to giving Asmussen an elusive Kentucky Derby (G1) trophy in 2022. He has 14 Triple Crown nominees in the hunt this year, among them the highly-regarded Extra Anejo, who is building up to his first work back from injury, and his trio for Saturday’s Rebel (G2), Red Route One, Gun Pilot, and Powerful.
In addition to his long-sought Kentucky Derby, Asmussen could attain another goal: the world record for most wins by a trainer. That is a moving target, with Peru’s Juan Suarez Villarroel still adding to it. His latest tally, as of Sunday, stands at 10,336 according to paginadeturf.wordpress.com.