01/12/2007 12:00AM

Asmussen getting down to business


NEW ORLEANS – Steve Asmussen was all smiles Thursday afternoon after his longtime assistant Scott Blasi won the feature race at Fair Grounds with Wild As Elle. It was Asmussen’s first day at the races since July 10 when he began serving a six-month suspension for medication violations. He chatted with jockey Donnie Meche in the paddock before the race, but stayed out of the winner’s circle.

“It’s great to be back,” said Asmussen, who has won six consecutive Fair Grounds training titles, including last season’s abbreviated meet at Louisiana Downs. “I haven’t gotten to the winner’s circle yet. I’m just a spectator.”

Although Asmussen’s license was reinstated Wednesday, the first starters under his name won’t come until Saturday.

Friday morning Asmussen was back at his desk in barn 46 on the Fair Grounds backstretch with five condition books set out in front of him, a cell phone in one hand and a pen in the other. He had just watched several strings of horses train from his customary mount aboard his grey stable pony Dakota and now Asmussen was entering horses in upcoming races like a floor broker trading stock orders, stopping only to take a call from his wife.

Though Asmussen was pretty sure his horses didn’t miss him while he was gone, he wasn’t going to say he didn’t miss them.

“Racing’s a very large part of my life and it always has been, but the amount of time I got to spend at home with my wife and the kids is not something I will ever regret,” he said.

Did he find himself looking for ways to occupy his time away from the track?

“If you don’t have three boys, 8, 6, and 4 years old, you might be wondering ‘What was he doing all that time?’ Anybody with a couple, let alone three, knows exactly what I did.”

Asmussen was suspended after No End in Sight tested positive for mepivicaine, a local anesthetic, following a March 24 race at Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, La. Asmussen concurrently served a six-month suspension in New Mexico for a positive test for the Class 3 drug acepromizine.

Despite not running a horse from July 10, Asmussen won 241 races in 2006, third best in North America. Asmussen, who set a training record in 2004 with 555 wins, has 3,426 career victories and purse earnings of $84,133,550.

During Asmussen’s absence Blasi stepped into the trainer’s role and seamlessly kept the vast organization winning races at about the same pace as before, registering 205 wins and earning $6.9 million in purses.

“I don’t think enough can be said about the quality of the job Scott and everybody else in the organization did while I was gone,” said Asmussen. “I think it shows how capable these people are and what a small part of it I actually was.”

Blasi, who has been with Asmussen for 10 years, has returned to his assistant’s role.

“I think this is the best organization in racing,” he said. “No one person could cover every aspect of it. I’m happy with the role I play.”

Asmussen currently is racing at Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Delta Downs, Sam Houston, Turfway Park, and Sunland Park. He has his work cut out reacquainting himself with all the horses in his care.

“I don’t know how long it will take but I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I have a lot of traveling to do. I’m looking forward to getting back into the routine.”