07/29/2014 1:16PM

Blasi rejoins Asmussen's stable

Shigeki Kikkawa
Assistant trainer Scott Blasi was fired by trainer Steve Asmussen in March but rejoined the stable Tuesday.

Scott Blasi returned to work for trainer Steve Asmussen at Saratoga on Tuesday, four months after the longtime assistant was fired for inappropriate behavior detailed in a video released by the activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

“It’s great to be back doing what I love,” Blasi said.

“He makes us better,” Asmussen said. “I’m better with him. He’s done a lot of good for us in 18 years.”

Blasi was depicted using crude language about horses and insulted one horse owner during a nine-minute video released by PETA in March. The edited video was part of several hours of footage taken during a five-month undercover operation in 2013 in which a female PETA employee got hired by Asmussen and had a personal relationship with Blasi.

As a result of the operation, PETA filed complaints against Asmussen and Blasi with governing bodies in Kentucky and New York as well as the Department of Labor. Thus far, neither the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission nor the New York State Gaming Commission has released the results of their investigations.

Lee Park, a spokesman for the New York State Gaming Commission, said the investigation is “expected to wrap up soon.” He also said that Blasi’s license was never suspended or revoked, so the commission did not have to grant approval for Blasi to return.

Asmussen said Tuesday he fired Blasi at the time due to the “unacceptable language” he used in the video. Clark Brewster, the attorney who represents Asmussen and Blasi, said Asmussen’s action represented “a respect for the process” of those investigations.

Brewster also said that Asmussen directed him to make all employees available to authorities to be interviewed.

“No matter what any regulator wanted, there was complete transparency,” Brewster said.

Asmussen said he chose this time to bring Blasi back because he needs his other assistant, Darren Fleming, to take horses to West Virginia for races this weekend, and “I need to be a little more mobile,” said Asmussen, who has divisions at tracks around the country.

Asked if he needed Blasi to change, Asmussen said, “You need to improve how you do everything. You always have to do that – learn from your mistakes and improve from them.”

During the last four months, Blasi said he spent time with family, specifically his 18-year-old son, who recently began basic training in the U.S. Army, and nieces and nephews. He never thought about having to leave racing.

“I don’t think my care or love or passion for the game has ever been a question,” Blasi said. “There are obviously ways you can grow and get better as a person. Everybody’s trying to do that all the time, especially myself. There are better ways to handle things, that’s for sure. Self-reflection has never hurt anybody. I got to do a lot of that. I’m really happy with where I’m at in my life.”

With Blasi as his assistant, Asmussen has vaulted into second among all trainers in racing history with 6,823 victories and ranks fifth in purse earnings with $218 million. Asmussen trained two-time Horse of the Year Curlin and Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and was the Eclipse Award-winning trainer in 2008-09. Asmussen was on the Hall of Fame ballot this year but was removed after the PETA video was released.

“There’s so many great things that we’ve done,” Blasi said. “I think the people that know us know how compassionate we are about the sport and the animals we take care of.”

In a statement Tuesday, PETA senior vice president Kathy Guillermo said, "Steve Asmussen's 'suspension' of Scott Blasi always seemed a sham. Ultimately, Asmussen is responsible for the cruelty shown in PETA's investigation, including the use of sedatives, pain-masking drugs, and chemical stimulants; running sore and injured horses; and smearing caustic chemicals on horses' legs. If the racing industry cares at all about Thoroughbreds, the end of the mock suspension will be seen as a return to business as usual and should be condemned by everyone who gives a hoot about horses."