03/29/2014 1:27PM

Former Asmussen employee commits suicide

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Barbara D. Livingston
Harry Hubbard Johnson, a former shed foreman for trainer Steve Asmussen, died at age 27 on Friday.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Harry Hubbard Johnson, who recently left the employ of trainer Steve Asmussen at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., committed suicide Friday in Kentucky.

Johnson was Asmussen’s shed foreman, a position that ranks a level below assistant trainer. He died two days following his 27th birthday.

“He was a kind soul and a pleasure to be around,” Asmussen said Saturday. “I feel horrible for the whole Johnson family.”

Johnson’s death comes a little more than a week after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released controversial video and audio footage recorded undercover in the Asmussen stable at Churchill Downs and Saratoga in 2013. Most of the recordings featured Scott Blasi, the longtime assistant trainer to Asmussen who was fired last week.

PETA has filed a number of complaints against Asmussen, including alleged animal mistreatment due to the overuse of legal medications. Other complaints filed allege the employment of undocumented workers, paying those workers less than minimum wage, and getting workers to falsify identification documents. The complaints are now being investigated by the Kentucky Racing Commission and the New York State Gaming Commission.

Owner Ahmed Zayat removed a dozen horses from Asmussen’s care last week. One of Zayat’s horses, Nehro, the runner-up in the 2011 Kentucky Derby, was featured in the PETA video and was said to have serious foot problems. Zayat said he took his horses away from Asmussen because he believes Asmussen was not forthcoming about the physical condition of Nehro. Nehro died of colic on Kentucky Derby Day 2013.

Asmussen is North America’s second all-time leading trainer in wins. He also is the current leading trainer by wins in the nation. Asmussen has divisions of horses at a number of tracks, including Oaklawn and Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

Johnson had worked as a shed foreman for Asmussen since at least December 2013. Johnson had previously worked as a veterinary technician in New York.

Johnson was born in Lubbock, Texas, and was a resident of Versailles, Ky. His mother, Kirsten Johnson, is the owner of the Kentucky Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center, or KESMARC, in Versailles, Ky.

– additional reporting by David Grening and Jay Privman

** An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Harry Hubbard Johnson's father recently died.

Victor More than 1 year ago
I've read EVERY comment here. Most show how this man who I never met was an upcoming horseman with talent and love for these animals. My deepest condolences to his mom and loved ones. Perhaps knowing that a shed foreman is responsible for everyrhing that gies on with help in the barn as well as coordinating with vets and such might shed a little light on WHY?? I am not saying in any way AT ALL that this man is guilty or should have even felt guilty for the contents of that putrid and obviously biased video. With all the dramatic effects added by PETA narrator even I felt badly. And I am objective enough to know the other nine hours probably showed the extreme love n care we all have for horses. Anyway, KERIN Ronin can sleep well as can her PETA radicals knowing they managed to destroy lives of good people in HUB and his family while probably NOT changing a damn thing in the daily routines of racing.
Phyllis Shalor More than 1 year ago
The person that posted as an altered version of my name has stalked and lied about my entire family, living and passed. I never dated Scott, I had nothing to do with the Peta girl site. This person posting is trying to sell equine altitude simulation stalls. Google advanced altitude rip off reports. They cowardly post as others in an effort to defame via Google. Dina Alborano will post her website after pretending to be Ahmed Zayatt and others. She put a county on my head through another blog. A real horseman would never accuse another of wrong doing. There is a family atmosphere on the racetrack, the fact that you picked a memorial about Hub t defame me, proves what a low vibrational piece of dung, you are. There are consequences for stalking, I'm not going to commit suicide. Thank you for bringing to light what bullying can do. For the record, Asmussen refused the Dina Alborano altitude chambers. Please look up animal cruelty statutes regarding decompression chambers and animals. I'm prepared for you to make your allegations of drug abuse and slaughter etc. We both know the real reason behind this crusade is because I turned you into USADA along with your Biogenesis cohort. I will be at the yearling sales, I hope you are brave enough to repeat your lies to my face.
KTFOguruSHALOR More than 1 year ago
I also believe that Scott Blasi was right in every thing he did. I used to date him until Beth destroyed our relationship. Then Beth destroyed him and HUB committed suicide. I stuck up for everyone in that barn and its fine to inject horses and have them run with bad feet. Its the game. I created the PETA GIRL SITE about Beth to end her nonsense once and for all.
KTFOguruSHALOR More than 1 year ago
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phyllis shalor More than 1 year ago
RIP, Hub. I stood up for you guys publicly on Twitter and am being stalked, harassed, & threatened all over cyberspace. I hope you are at peace, now.God Bless You.
Kristen Studebaker More than 1 year ago
There are people at the barn who witnessed Scott Blasi's reaction to Nehro's death, and they said he was out of his mind with anger and devastation. Despite a snippet video, and a voice-over, the mole didn't show his outright emotion by his death. They portray him as a heartless person, but his co-workers know how much the Nehro situation destroyed him. And Hub was a loving spirit who knew it too. I am sure he was equally devasted by this mole's actions. I truly wouldn't want to be in the mole's shoes right now, but these people don't seem to care about human lives, or animals' lives. They only want self-glorification.
Mike and Kathy More than 1 year ago
Hub was a great person who loved all animals. PETA is listed as a Terrorist group. They do nothing for the protection of animals. To destroy a young life for nothing more than a TV segment is immoral. Anyone who has a bad thing to say about a kind and generous person like Hub should me ashamed of themselves. As far as the comment about suicide and its disgrace, you were not in Hub's shoes sir. You don't know the pain that he was going through and you sure as hell don't care about the pain your comments have caused. “Let he who is with out sin cast the first stone.” Mike McAlpine
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
I've read EVERY comment here. Most show how this man who I never met was an upcoming horseman with talent and love for these animals. My deepest condolences to his mom and loved ones. Perhaps knowing that a shed foreman is responsible for everyrhing that gies on with help in the barn as well as coordinating with vets and such might shed a little light on WHY?? I am not saying in any way AT ALL that this man is guilty or should have even felt guilty for the contents of that putrid and obviously biased video. With all the dramatic effects added by PETA narrator even I felt badly. And I am objective enough to know the other nine hours probably showed the extreme love n care we all have for horses. Anyway, KERIN Ronin can sleep well as can her PETA radicals knowing they managed to destroy lives of good people in HUB and his family while probably NOT changing a damn thing in the daily routines of racing.
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
Kerin Rosen
Paul F More than 1 year ago
rip..............problems had to go deeper than peta.....but is sure didnt help....
John More than 1 year ago
This whole mess is a travesty , it shines a bad light on all the good people of racing ! A few jerks like Asmussen shouldnt reflect the whole of the racing community . No winners here, PETA is just protecting animal abuse from taking place which did happen in this barn, and this young man got caught up in this mess ! Racing needs a commissioner, too many bad things happening, too much lax regulations state to state, and this mess with the odds changing as the race goes on is going to sink racing unless they get a handle on it ! The 5 biggest stock market traders were all exposed on 60 MINUTES Sunday night for past posting stock trades in mili-seconds . If you dont think the same thing isnt happening to racing, think long and hard , its happening , they are getting coy and disguising it with purposly losing some wagers . Dont know about you but Ive had enough of my 5-1 shot crossing the wire at 5-2 !
zkid9914 More than 1 year ago
Had three winners who dropped dramically after they won on the weekend. Something funny is going on.