Updated on 11/18/2011 10:18PM

Asmussen celebrates 46th birthday in style with 6,000th career win

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Barbara D. Livingston
Steve Asmussen is the fifth - and youngest - trainer in history to win 6,000 races.

Steve Asmussen gave himself a nice birthday present by becoming just the fifth trainer in North American racing history to hit the 6,000-win milestone when Basalt captured the first race Friday evening at Remington Park in Oklahoma City.

Asmussen, who turned 46 on Friday, was watching at his home with his wife, Julie, and three sons in the Dallas suburb of Arlington, Tex.

“I absolutely want to share this with my owners and my staff,” said Asmussen. “My longtime assistants, Scott [Blasi], Darren[(Fleming], Toby [Sheets] – this is as much their accomplishment as it is mine.”

The late Dale Baird is the all-time wins leader with 9,445, followed by Jack Van Berg (6,409), King Leatherbury (6,331), and Jerry Hollendorfer (6,057). Asmussen also became just the fifth trainer to win 5,000 when doing so a little more than two years ago.

Top trainers all-time, by wins

No. NAME WINS
1. Dale Baird 9,445
2 Jack Van Berg* 6,409
3. King Leatherbury* 6,331
4. Jerry Hollendorfer* 6,057
5. Steve Asmussen* 6,001
* active
Statistics through Nov. 18, 2011

Asmussen is easily the youngest to hit the 6,000 milestone. Baird was 57 when he did it in 1992, and Van Berg was 59 when he did it in 1995. Regarding his chances and ambitions of ultimately becoming the all-time leader, Asmussen said: “I’ve always had the attitude that I just want the next one in to win.”

Asmussen raised his total to 6,001 later Friday when he won race 5 at Remington Park with Letsgetitonmom.

Born in Gettysburg, S.D., in 1965, Asmussen hails from a racing family. His father, Keith, and mother, Marilyn, are both former trainers who continue to assist their son in preparing young horses at their farm in Laredo, Tex., while his brother, Cash, is a former star jockey who won an Eclipse Award in the United States and was a champion rider in Europe. Cash also currently is a trainer.

Steve Asmussen began riding races at age 16 before soon turning to training in 1986. His stable and client roster have grown steadily through the years, and he typically has upward of 250 active runners at his disposal, with four or five strings operating at any given time. He won the Eclipse Award for top trainer in 2008 and 2009 and will be eligible for election into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2012 after the requisite 25 years as a trainer.

Foremost among his best horses were Curlin, the all-time earnings leader among Thoroughbreds with more than $10 million and the Horse of the Year in 2007 and 2008, and Rachel Alexandra, the 2009 Horse of the Year. Asmussen saddled two winners at the recent Breeders’ Cup at Churchill, with My Miss Aurelia in the Juvenile Fillies and Regally Ready in the Turf Sprint, and has trained other major runners such as Nehro, Pyro, Kodiak Kowboy, Summerly, Valid Expectations, Lady Tak, and Cuvee. His career stable earnings are more than $185 million.

Asmussen set the North American record for most wins in a year by a trainer when his stable won 650 races in 2009, breaking his own marks of 555 in 2004 and 621 in 2008. He has been the leading trainer in wins in seven of the last nine years, including the last four. His win total for 2011 stood at 306 through his 6,000th on Friday.

To illustrate the rapid pace at which he wins races, it was just over two years and two months ago that he won his 5,000th on Sept. 11, 2009, at Woodbine. “That’s my dad’s birthday,” said Asmussen. “It’s great that I keep hitting these milestones on dates important to our family.”

Basalt, a first-time starter owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and ridden by Lindy Wade, was much the best in giving Asmussen his 6,000th. After breaking sharply, the 2-year-old Giant’s Causeway had to wait quite a while for room before finally finding a spot along the rail, from where he rallied to narrowly prevail. Basalt paid $10.60 to win.

Asmussen won two races Thursday night at Remington Park, bringing his career total to 5,998 into Friday. He had 10 horses entered Friday – four at Churchill Downs and six at Remington. He won the third at Churchill with Grinning Gang ($5.80) for No. 5,999 before hitting the 6,000-mark about 90 minutes later.

Steve Asmussen Career Highlights

First Win: 1986, Ruidoso Downs
First Stakes Win: 1987, Bessemer S. at Birmingham
First Graded Stakes Win: 1996, Derby Trial at Churchill Downs
First Grade I Win: 1999, Acorn S. at Belmont Park
4,000th Win: Feb. 17, 2008, Oaklawn Park
5,000th Win: Sept. 11, 2009, Woodbine
6,000th Win: Nov. 18, 2011, Remington Park
Eclipse Award for Top Trainer: 2008, 2009
No. American Leading Trainer in Wins (7): 2002-04-05-07-08-09-10
All-time record for wins in a year: 650 in 2009
Horse of the Year trainees (3): Curlin, 2007-08, Rachel Alexandra, 2009
Triple Crown Wins (2): 2007 Preakness, Curlin; 2009 Preakness, Rachel Alexandra
Breeders' Cup Wins (3): Curlin, 2007 Classic; My Miss Aurelia, 2011 Juvenile Fillies; Regally Ready, 2011 Turf Sprint
Training Titles at: Churchill Downs, Keeneland, Fair Grounds, Oaklawn, Lone Star, Retama, Ellis Park, Remington, Sam Houston, and others.
Stable Earnings: More than $185 million