03/21/2014 11:51AM

Asmussen removed from Hall of Fame ballot

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Barbara D. Livingston
Steve Asmussen is being investigated for mistreatment of horses in New York and Kentucky.

The fallout over accusations of and pending investigations into mistreatment of horses by trainer Steve Asmussen began Friday, when the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame effectively removed Asmussen from the ballot for consideration to be elected into the institution.

In a statement released shortly after noon Friday, the Hall of Fame said, “Based on pending investigations by the New York State Gaming Commission and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission into allegations made by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and reported by various media outlets, the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame has decided it is in the best interests of the institution and the sport of Thoroughbred racing in general to table the 2014 Hall of Fame nomination of trainer Steve Asmussen.”

Asmussen, a two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer who ranks second in career victories with 6,727 and fifth all-time in purse money won with $214,714,176, was on the ballot for the first time this year.

Asmussen, 48, and his top assistant, Scott Blasi, came under fire this week after the animal-rights group PETA announced that it had filed 10 complaints with various state and federal agencies in New York and Kentucky against Asmussen for multiple alleged violations, including animal cruelty and fraud. The animal-cruelty accusations included misuse of therapeutic medications. The fraud complaints stemmed from the employment of undocumented workers and requiring those workers to use false names on Internal Revenue Service forms.

The complaints came after a four-month investigation of the Asmussen stable in which a PETA employee went undercover as an employee of Asmussen’s working for the stable at Churchill Downs and Saratoga. Accompanying PETA’s findings was a nine-minute video – edited down from seven hours of actual footage the organization claims it shot – that depicted chronic misuse of legal medications by Asmussen’s stable as well as some harsh comments from Blasi.

The video and the complaints have sparked separate investigations into Asmussen, Blasi, and at least two veterinarians – Drs. James Hunt and Joseph Migliacci – by the New York State Gaming Commission. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission said it also will investigate Asmussen, Blasi, and others.

A number of Thoroughbred industry groups – including The Jockey Club, NTRA, Breeders’ Cup, and New York Racing Association – have put out statements in essence pledging their support and cooperation to the organizations that would be investigating the complaints against Asmussen.
On Friday, owner Ahmed Zayat said horses he had entered to run this weekend trained by Asmussen would be scratched.

Justin Zayat, the son of and racing manager for Ahmed Zayat, said via Twitter that his father directed him to scratch Selway from a $25,000 claiming race at Fair Grounds on Sunday and Skinny from a $40,000 claiming race at Oaklawn on Sunday.

Justin Zayat, on Twitter, wrote that his father wanted those horses scratched “pending further investigation from our side with these matters.” The Zayats were traveling Friday morning and unavailable for further comment.

One of the horses depicted in the PETA video was Nehro, the runner-up in the 2011 Kentucky Derby for Zayat – who was seen being treated for chronic foot problems. Nehro ultimately died from colic on Kentucky Derby Day 2013. On Thursday, Zayat told Daily Racing Form that he never knew Nehro had foot problems.

Zayat said he wanted to speak with Asmussen before deciding whether to remove the horses he had with Asmussen and disperse them to other trainers.

Meanwhile, David Fiske, the racing manager for Ron Winchell, said no decision had been made whether Winchell’s horses – which include leading Kentucky Derby candidate Tapiture and leading Kentucky Oaks contender Untapable – would remain with Asmussen.

“We’ll assess the situation, do what’s best for us; not entirely sure what that is at the moment,” Fiske said. “The video and the story don’t reflect the experiences we’ve had with Steve and Scott over the last 20 years that we’ve had horses with them.”

Tapiture, the winner of the Southwest and the runner-up to Hoppertunity in the Rebel, is slated to make his next start in the $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 12. Untapable, the 9 1/2-length winner of the Rachel Alexandra Stakes on Feb. 22, is scheduled to make her next start in the Grade 2, $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks at Fair Grounds on March  29.

Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
The response from the racing community and racing publications smacks a little of that line in the movie CASABLANCA when the corrupt police chief walks into the casino where he himself gambles and gets bribes and says.im shocked shocked there's gambling going on here..I'm not shocked "pun intended" at what PETA filmed and frankly i don't believe anybody in the industry or any serious handicapper is.we all know the use of drugs is rampant and there's proof of that .Mr. assmussen himself served a lengthy suspension for several positives so he has had is day in court and been found guilty.SHANE SELLERS told us in his book that he and others used buzzers and went as far as saying many jockeys at Evangeline downs used them to .but worse than that jockeys have been caught with buzzers and reinstated. one example is BILLY PATIN who got a suspension and continues to ride. Of course now we have heard from GARY STEVENS that he too has used a buzzer and no one at the dinner table seemed shocked MR LUKAS weighed in that it was like a bzz bzz orchestra behind the gate at Ruidoso downs where he began training. he knows. The fact that Lasix is a performance enhancer and drug masking agent is well known despite all the industry sponsored studies and denials. Its obvious why it makes the horse lighter and he pees the remnants of any drugs still in the body. We now have a vet on tape confirming what is obvious.as for under paying and exploiting the help that's been well documented as well .so the question is does racing in the u.s want to be around in the future or is it going to continue down this destructive path until it turns everybody off?. denying the obvious or shooting at the messenger is counterproductive the solution seems to me quite simple go as natural as possible .limit the use of the whip( this does not bother me but at home everybody winces when they see a horse getting whipped when he no longer has a shot) it would help get more young people and women interested in the sport or at least not turn so many off. Get rid of the bad actors fast before they become an embarrassment to the sport instead of nominating them to the hall of fame and writing puff pieces about their feats in the form. And last but not least have some oversight over the corruption and make ethics a much bigger part of racing that it is right now
Jerry Baileyfan More than 1 year ago
The PETA undercover girl Kerin Rosen is 27 and HOT! Pictures of her on petagirl dot com. Her sister is an equine vet and her name is Dr. Erica Rosen. Kerin's sister must be proud of her young hot sister for breaking the story!!
Bob More than 1 year ago
Sounds like Asmussen might be in line for Richie Dutrow treatment...
. More than 1 year ago
this is getting serious. Man, when you get caught, the industry really turns on you. If you don't get caught you are the greatest guy in the world.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
Great observation.even if you get caught even if everybody knows as long as its not on tape and youre not admiting it.your are the greatest . and every track and racing publication will honor you but if you become an embarrassment you're gone. look at duthrow caught multiple times but when he opened his mouth and admitted that he gave BIG BROWN steroids he was out .its like the mob you have to keep it discreet.
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
the picture of Asmussen for this article sure looks like he has a lot on his mind. kinda sinister looking! usually the drf has nice smiling face pictures of him in their articles!
Connie Lawrence More than 1 year ago
PETA is a bunch of lying and corrupt individuals. It has been proven that PETA has put down dogs and cats.
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
Do you mean euthanized? If so, it's usually a necessity, like our wonderful champ, Vagabond Shoes, which happened earlier today. Beside the point, this isn't about PETA. It's under investigation. Steps being taken by Zayat Stables and the committee are precautionary.
John Richardson More than 1 year ago
It is about PETA and their agenda
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
ok PETA has an agenda.so what?..don't shoot the messenger ..the facts speak for themselves.
turfsoul More than 1 year ago
Been wanting to write this for a long time, and rarely publish my opinions online. But it was prompted after watching the PETA video two nights ago. I could just see the racing forums blowing up like they have. PETA is this! But Asmussen is that! I have a news flash for the racing world: Wrong Argument. The issue is not whether or not public perceptions (be they PETA or otherwise) are correct. The REAL issue is that the perceptions, in fact 1.) Do exist; 2.) Are fatally mainstream; 3.) And, are doing incredible damage. For those reasons, they should be addressed and resolved head on. And by us, NOT PETA or anyone else. In short, racing needs to wake up, stop treating this as typical horse people would, and start treating this professionally as any business or industry would: A Mt. Everest PR Nightmare that needs immediate attention for continued life as an industry in our society. Yesterday, that PETA video was showing up in my non-racing friend’s Facebook feeds. PETA, whether you like it or not, is doing a better job meeting the public where they are at than we are. We live in the most animal-sympathetic society the world has ever known. On our best day, we are walking a tightrope in people’s eyes. If we do not start acknowledging these perceptions as important– whether we agree with them or not– Thoroughbred horse racing is on its way to being met with the same disdain as Greyhound racing in 10 years. It’s heart-breaking, as we have so much more to offer than these horrifying examples that only glorify the worst. What about the rest? Horse racing in its purest form offers stories so full of emotion, inspiration and soul that it can move a country. As Tom Hammond of NBC Sports said, “The Olympics offer the best stories. Horse racing comes next.” It’s not like we (or the horses) have nothing to offer. It’s just that we don’t focus on the right things. The primary negative perceptions are drugs, disrespect for the horse, and “the whip.” If we really wanted to evolve with the society we find ourselves in, we would act swiftly, treat this as the PR nightmare that it is, and make intentional, committed changes. The obvious include: 1. Removing the whip altogether. Hand-rides only. Raise true horsemen again who encourage horses to run through good horsemanship, or because they want to, or both. 2. Tracks and organizations uniting to permanently disallow trainers who use performance-enhancing drugs. After the first five, trainers would seriously rethink everything. It would have to be a unified effort. 3. Getting rid of Lasix. For crying out loud, Europe already has. 4. Stop the racing of 2-year-olds (i.e. Don’t encourage racing until horses have fully matured.) 5. Donating 1% of all auction sales, wagering totals, and stud fees to Thoroughbred aftercare. Make it a publicly visible priority. We need to stop letting others be the master of our fate. We need to stop the false thinking that if a public perception is incorrect, it doesn’t matter… That thinking is so not current. In fact, it’s archaic. It also highlights the wrong things, only drawing out unresolvable arguments. We need to be more forward-thinking for the sake of our sport, our history, and our horses. If we don’t, we deserve our fate.
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
Wow! Excellent points.
John Richardson More than 1 year ago
Totally agree with the first premise.....but it is a bit more complicated on the others.....bottom line is your are right!
steve More than 1 year ago
I have just became interested in horse racing in the last year. I now question if I should continue to be invest my time and money in a sport that may be run by people more interested in money than providing a fair and equal race. We have all seen how other sports have been affected by drugs and cheating. People will not tolerate this behavior anymore. I could not agree more with turfsoul. I consider myself an animal lover and think the lowest level a human being can go is to abuse a defenseless animal. I never have liked or understood why it is necessary to whip a horse to make them run. There has to be a better way. I really fell in love with horse racing, I hope it was not a mistake.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
Nicely done. You are so right. I feel exactly the same way. Its a wonderful sport when conducted properly and its still done the right way in some parts of the world .i once owned a horse overseas that ran over 50 races won about 8 and hit the board on 35 other races.ran only late in his 2 yo season in a 6 furlong race and competed until age 6.never once used Lasix or steroids only water oats and vitamins.he was a sound happy horse and i retired him when he started loosing interest in racing .he was sold and whent on to a show jumping carreer and later i heard was covering a few mares.thats racing in its purest form how it should be.not this.
Jeff More than 1 year ago
I agree with the idea that horse racing should speak up and educate. But your solutions are a bit naive. 1. Horses are fight or flight animals that learn and react from fear. It would be impractical and naive to believe you could train them to race all out without reinforcement during the race. Can you imagine the frustration of the betting public when they lose their money on a horse and jockey that doesn't even look like it's trying. 2. Performance enhancing drugs are already disallowed. Agree that penalties should be stiffer. My suggestion is the horse gets suspended as well. You think owners will tolerate cheating trainers if their horses are sidelined for a bad test? 3. Lasix is not performance enhancing. It makes a horse weaker because it removes fluids from the horse. However, removing fluids is much preferred to the awefulness of a horses lungs exploding and it bleeding visibly from its nostrils. 4. Not economically viable. Won't happen. 5. Good idea.
Quite A Dude More than 1 year ago
I love the way the naysayers are making "PETA" the bad guy and the "edited" 8 minute video is some sort of massive manipulation. Listen to the words. They are full sentences spoken by Asst. Trainer and Asmussen right hand man, Scott Blasi. The words speak for themselves. You cannot spin the words or deflect the issue to "Bad PETA" based on what he states in Spades.... This video is an example of how many of the big outfits operate. Horses are meat and are trained accordingly. Mask their pain and enhance their performance by whatever means necessary as long as it passes a test or industry scrutiny..
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
ITA. This is NOT about PETA!!
Singh Prabhu More than 1 year ago
there is better things for the fbi to do
Singh Prabhu More than 1 year ago
steve will walk a free man about the animal cruelty but the fake name will be tuff