03/22/2014 3:23PM

Blasi fired by Asmussen following PETA complaints, video

Shigeki Kikkawa
Scott Blasi worked for Steve Asmussen for 18 years. He originally went to work for him as an exercise rider at Remington Park.

Scott Blasi, the long-time assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, has been fired in the wake of a controversy in which both men are accused by an animal rights group of mistreating horses.

“Scott Blasi has been relieved of his responsibilities,” Asmussen wrote in a text message Saturday afternoon.

“I have been informed that I have been let go,” Blasi confirmed in a text message. “I understand and respect that decision.”

Blasi had been based this winter at Fair Grounds, where, through Friday, Asmussen was the leading trainer with 57 wins.

Asmussen and Blasi are the subject of 10 complaints filed by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which had one of its employees go undercover and work as an employee for four months for the Asmussen barn at Churchill Downs and Saratoga.

The complaints include animal abuse in the form of chronic misuse of therapeutic medications as well as the suggested use of electrical devices by jockeys on horses. The complaints also deal with the use of undocumented workers, paying those workers less than minimum wage, and getting those workers to falsify identification documents.

The complaints have sparked investigations by both the New York State Gaming Commission and Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

In releasing those complaints earlier this week, PETA also released a nine-minute video - edited down from more than seven hours of footage taken - that shows Blasi discussing the use of electrical devices known as batteries. Blasi uses several vulgarities throughout the video including one directed at owner Ahmed Zayat, who he said should have retired 2011 Kentucky Derby runner-up Nehro well before the horse died of colic on Kentucky Derby Day 2013. Nehro had chronic foot problems, and the poor condition of his feet are detailed in the video.

Blasi worked for Asmussen for 18 years, first galloping horses for him at Remington Park. During Blasi’s time as Asmussen’s top assistant, Asmussen trained two-time Horse of the Year Curlin and Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and won the Eclipse Award as North America’s top trainer in 2008-09. Blasi was credited with winning 205 races from 1,040 starters during a six-month period in 2006-07 when Asmussen served a six-month suspension for a medication violation.

Asmussen ranks second all-time in wins in North America and fifth in purse earnings. He was a candidate for the Hall of Fame but on Friday was removed from the ballot by National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame officials.

“When you think about Scott being with us for [12] years and what we have accomplished together, it is just tremendous,” Asmussen told author Karen M. Johnson in the book “The Training Game” published in 2009.

In the book, Blasi talked about what it was like to work for Asmussen, saying the job regularly required 14-hour days.

“It’s not for everybody,” Blasi told Johnson. “It’s high-pressure. There are so many things we try to manage to make things as smooth as we want it. I first started galloping for Steve at Remington. To see where [the stable] has gone since and everything we’ve went through to get to this place . . . there is a lot of emotion involved. The fighting and everything you do to get to this point. The hard part is staying on top. Not every day is a great day. Mistakes are made. You try to be as perfect as possible. 

“The one thing about working for Steve is that from the outside it seems like so much. A lot of people come up to me and say: ‘I don’t know how you do it.’ When you’re in the middle of it, it doesn’t seem overwhelming. I personally like the work because I don’t do well [with idle time], so it’s a good job for me.”

In the book, Blasi said beyond the working relationship he had with Asmussen, there is friendship.

“I think everybody has a certain amount of people they chose to confide in,” Blasi said. “Steve and I definitely have that kind of relationship. Whether it’s business or personal, Steve has been a very good friend to me.”

- additional reporting by Marcus Hersh