04/25/2010 11:00PM

Asmussen savors a career first


He ranks fifth all-time in races and purse money won and has trained the Horse of the Year for the last three years. But trainer Steve Asmussen still gets excited about winning a trainer's title. Considering he had never won a title at a New York Racing Association meet before, perhaps the joy he displayed Monday morning was warranted.

Asmussen won the Aqueduct main-track title, 12-10, over Gary Contessa. The Asmussen stable did it in somewhat dramatic fashion, winning with all five starters it ran the final week of the meet. Asmussen finished 12 for 28 while Contessa went 10 for 65.

Asmussen called winning the title "awesome'' and added that his Belmont Park-based assistant Toby Sheets "deserves all the credit."

While most of Asmussen's better stock is with him in Kentucky, he does have the promising 3-year-old Rule by Night stabled at Belmont. Rule by Night, a son of Malibu Moon, won a first-level allowance race by 2 1/2 lengths last Thursday, his first start since winning a maiden race in January. Rule by Night, who earned an 89 Beyer Speed Figure for the victory, had been sidelined because of a quarter crack.

"He's got a ton of talent - Toby's done a great job taking care of him," Asmussen said. "It's unfortunate about the quarter crack which pushed us back. He won a nice race the right way the other day."

Asmussen said he plans to stretch Rule by Night out in distance, but doesn't want to make any plans with the colt until after he works back.

"I don't want to make plans so everybody's disappointed over what we're missing instead of just appreciating just what a nice horse he is," Asmussen said.

While Asmussen was winning his first NYRA title, jockey Ramon Dominguez captured his eighth consecutive race-meet title, taking the Aqueduct main-track meet, 27-19, over David Cohen. Dominguez's streak began with the 2008-09 inner-track title.

Belmont's 59-day spring/summer meet opens Friday.

No real excuse for D' Funnybone

D' Funnybone, fourth as the 1-2 favorite in Saturday's Withers at Aqueduct, appeared to come out of the race in good order, according to trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. Dutrow said if all goes well, the horse would likely be pointed to the Grade 2, $250,000 Woody Stephens at seven furlongs on Belmont Stakes Day.

"That's what would be first on my list," Dutrow said Monday at Churchill Downs. "We know he likes the track and we know he likes seven-eighths."

D' Funnybone won last fall's Futurity at seven furlongs at Belmont.

In the Withers, D' Funnybone, under Edgar Prado, was forced to steady early in the race when the pacesetting Castaneda drifted over on him. Prado then got the horse outside and into a stalking position but came up empty in the stretch. He finished a well-beaten fourth behind upset winner Afleet Again.

"I was kind of disappointed the way things worked out in the race," Dutrow said. "I didn't like the checking because that cost him so much."

Meanwhile, Afleet Again came out of the race in good order, according to trainer Butch Reid. Though the horse is based at Philadelphia Park right now, he is expected to be part of a small string Reid will have this summer at Monmouth Park. A possible next start is the Grade 3, $200,000 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth on June 19.

Afleet Again is not Triple Crown-nominated and would have to be supplemented to the Preakness or Belmont at a cost of $100,000.

* Bill Castle, who serves as the New York agent for jockey David Cohen and the Mid-Atlantic agent for Cohen and Shane Sellers, has been hospitalized because of a colon problem. Castle said he will reply to horsemen's texts, e-mails and phone calls "in a timely fashion."