05/03/2014 1:36PM

Asmussen breaks silence on PETA video in Costas interview

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Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Steve Asmussen, shown here with rider Rosie Napravnik after the Kentucky Oaks, broke his silence on a PETA video showing alleged abuse of horses Asmussen was training.

Steve Asmussen broke his silence on the animal abuse allegations made against him by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals during an interview with NBC’s Bob Costas that aired partially during the network’s Kentucky Oaks broadcast Friday, calling the claims “horribly misleading and untrue.”

Asmussen, who has refused to talk to reporters about the allegations since PETA released a nine-minute video taken from seven hours of footage shot by one of his employees, said that the video and a complaint PETA forwarded to racing commissions in Kentucky and New York did not show “one actual rule violation.” The employee worked for Asmussen for four months last summer and was secretly shooting the footage as a PETA agent, PETA has claimed.

Asmussen also denied that any jockeys who had ridden his horses had used an electric shock device, an allegation made by PETA based on conversations about the machines among Asmussen associates. Specifically, PETA said that Ricardo Santana Jr., who will ride Asmussen’s Tapiture in the Derby on Saturday, had used a buzzer on a horse.

“That is not true,” Asmussen told Costas. “That is absolutely ridiculous.”

The allegations have cast a cloud over Asmussen and the sport of racing on its biggest weekend. On Friday, Asmussen won the Kentucky Oaks with Untapable, widely considered the leading 3-year-old filly in the country. Following the victory, Asmussen again declined to address the PETA allegations with reporters, leaving the Costas interview as his sole comment so far on the issue.

Following the release of the video in late March, Asmussen fired his longtime assistant, Scott Blasi, who was featured in the vast majority of the clips edited by PETA from the footage. Asmussen told Costas he fired Blasi because he referred to an owner, Ahmed Zayat, with a vulgarity and not because of the animal abuse allegations made by PETA. 

“His comments were extremely disrespectful to an owner of ours, and that’s unwarranted,” Asmussen said.

Asmussen accused PETA of misrepresenting his stable’s operations with the video to further its goals.

“Their stated goal is to abolish horse racing,” Asmussen said, adding later, “They aren’t going to get anyone’s attention unless they throw in the shock value.”

Asmussen also said the accusations have unfairly affected his image.

“The most bothersome thing about this is for anyone to think that I am not a good caretaker,” Asmussen said. “That would be the first thing on my resume.”

Following the release of the video, the National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame withdrew its nomination of Asmussen for induction. Asmussen said the withdrawal was disappointing.

“I come from a racing family, and it would mean a lot to all of us,” Asmussen said.

Asmussen also indicated he plans to fight any allegations or charges that racing commissions might bring against him, and he said he may seek legal redress against PETA as well.

“They’ve certainly opened themselves up to that with such ridiculous claims,” he said.

Bob 10 months ago
Asmussen's problem is that he just doesn't get it....as the head if his operation he is responsible for the actions of every person under his supervision and that means he is responsible for the actions of Scott Blasi and the vets who tend to his horses. He is also responsible for making sure his employees are not violating employment and immigration laws. He can say what he wants but the video PETA has made public is a damning indictment of Asmussen's operation and of two of racing's most illustrious figures of the last 25 years in the form of Gary Stevens and D. Wayne Lukas; both of who are heard laughing and joking about the use of electrical devices by jockeys! If the racing industry doesn't step up and take control of the situation with swift and certain action then the industry is nothing more than a party to the conspiracy, Steven Asmussen be damned! Richie Dutrow also claimed he had done nothing wrong through several years of court battles and legal wrangling before he was finally given a ten year time out from racing and I think a similar cooling off period would do Stevie here some good.....as it would give him time to reflect on what it means to be a responsible employer, a responsible horse trainer and a responsible business owner!
Slickrock Lindsey 10 months ago
HE'S A LIER...!
Justin Glagola 10 months ago
"Nevermind that A) use of a buzzer was discussed (uh, ILLEGAL!), B) Blasi vowed to fool stewards in order to run a lame horse (uh, ILLEGAL!), and C) purchasing fake IDs for undocumented workforce...(uh, ILLEGAL). But go ahead and keep "catapulting the propaganda". Maybe someone will buy it. Someone who just fell off a turnip truck...Gaye Goodwin23 hours ago"- The best and purest post from all the comments
Ian GW 10 months ago
Yea creating false records to me is what he should be in trouble for. I don't pay my taxes for someone else to get a free ride.
Jeff Mcintosh 10 months ago
BOO HOO -STEVE you said this crap last time you were busted. How bout those illegal SS # YOU PROVIDED FOR YOUR ILLEGAL HELP.I believe this is a criminal offense maybe you can go to jaill where you belong.The only one that believes your lying crap is George RUSTY Arnold,Maybe he can give your former henchman or assistant a job.I hope you fight every allegation because that cost $$$ as sad as it is I would rather see lawyers have all the money you have stolen from the public.
LDL 10 months ago
Blasi's comments about Zayat were SPOT ON....that owner kept racin a horse that should not have been on the track....then says he knew nothin.....typical ...the ones with all $$$ throw the others under the bus
russell 10 months ago
PETA is an evil organization. They used to throw paint at people for wearing fur coats. There are few alter boys in racing or any sport. Everyone wants to be on top. What price do they pay to get there, im not sure,
Bugsy Anderson 10 months ago
If I was Steve..... I would never address the Peta folks. they are in no position to talk with their track record
Ralph Wideman 10 months ago
I understand people are mad at Steve but think of it this way 9 min of bad material in 4 months what ain't that a little fishy cause if been around horse racing all my life not say people have not been caught doing wrong before but 9 min in 4 months and that's all they could come up with looks like they are looking for a fish to fry
Cleon Silence 10 months ago
your comment is logical if it were true but of course it isn't
Anonymous 10 months ago
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.......we all saw the video Steve, and it's pretty clear that you either have NO control over you racing operation OR you are complicit in the malfeasance of your employees. Regardless, you are responsible for the actions of your employees and anyone who would employee a foul-mouthed PIG like Scott Blasi, is deserving of whatever fate becomes you! There was a time when I held you in high regard, but you have been reduced to little more than a rotting piece of garbage in my eyes and there is nothing you can do to change my opinion. I plan to haunt every website that reports on your pathetic story and make sure your miserable face is smeared in mud for as long as you continue to saddle horses. You deserve the same 10 year sentence that Richie Dutrow received and you deserve the same lack of respect!
Bugsy Anderson 10 months ago
Interesting. You hold him to a different standard than most would. Most employers of multi-state businesses cant assure what's going on. do you think every cab company owner knows about all the driving infractions that were not caught? Do you think Mcadonald's head office knows about all the food eaten by its employees that are "not" staff meals? Im not for or against Steve..... but your comment is a joke
Bob 10 months ago
Who said Anonymous was holding Asmussen to a different standard than he would most? That's your assumption and one that is obviously based on a lack of understanding of the management principles used to govern large organizations, multi-state or otherwise. The modern day corporation is based on a hierarchy of responsibility. It is not a democracy and it is managed using egalitarian principles. As such the person at the top is responsible for the actions of everyone below them in the chain of hierarchy. You may not like it, but that's how it is!
Michael Amoruso 10 months ago
brave comments from someone posting as anonymous
JDS0810 10 months ago
It is really shocking to me when people speak way out of turn without knowing the facts. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but yours is totally voiced without any knowledge of anything that went on over there. What is he guilty of? You are going to haunt every website and that is fine. Maybe you wouldn't have such a strong opinion if you went on these blogs as anything other than "anonymous." Social media is a forum for gutless wonders like you to have a voice.
Bob 10 months ago
Whoever said you have the facts? And by the way, your username of "JDS0810" is just as much a shield to your true identity as is that of Anonymous! If you want to talk about FACTS, the fact is that everyone on here is anonymous. We don't anymore know whether Michael Amoruso is the name of a real person any more so than we know what your name is or the name of Anonymous! What we do know is that you, my friend are an idiot!
Starks43 10 months ago
He fired his asst only because of comments abt owner. That says it all.