03/24/2014 4:48PM

Owner Zayat transferring horses from Asmussen stable

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Barbara D. Livingston
Ahmed Zayat with Nehro, the runner-up in the 2011 Kentucky Derby.

Owner Ahmed Zayat said Monday he is parting ways with trainer Steve Asmussen, moving a dozen horses from his barn to three trainers on different circuits.

Zayat announced the decision on Twitter late Monday afternoon and confirmed the names of the trainers to whom those horses will be going in a phone conversation with Daily Racing Form.

Asmussen and his former assistant, Scott Blasi, are the subject of 10 complaints filed by the animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which, among other things, allege animal abuse by the two horsemen in the form of overuse of legal medications.

Zayat said horses he had with Asmussen at Oaklawn Park will be going to D. Wayne Lukas. Zayat’s horses at Fair Grounds will go to Dale Romans and be moved to Churchill Downs. Finally, Zayat-owned horses at Belmont Park will be given to Michael Wilson. Wilson, a graduate of the Darley Flying Start program, also has worked for horsemen Richard Mandella, Bob Baffert, Doug O’Neill, and Ken McPeek. He has won nine races from 49 starters, including six on the New York Racing Association circuit last year.

Zayat said he made the decision to split with Asmussen because he believes Asmussen was not forthcoming about the physical condition of Nehro, the runner-up in the 2011 Kentucky Derby who died of colic on Kentucky Derby Day 2013.

Details of Nehro’s fragile feet were prominently discussed in a nine-minute video put out by PETA that accompanied its complaints about Asmussen and Blasi to state and federal agencies in Kentucky and New York.

Those complaints have sparked investigations by racing commissions in Kentucky and New York and led to Asmussen firing Blasi on Saturday after an 18-year association.

Zayat said he knew that Nehro had to be stopped on twice due to ankle problems but was never made aware that the horse had problems with his feet. In the video, one of Nehro’s feet is described by an unnamed farrier as “a little bitty nub.”

“News to me, never heard it before, very disturbing,” Zayat said. “Therefore, I was lied to, and if I was lied to, I can’t continue to keep my horses in an environment where I can’t trust the care that’s given.”

Zayat said he checked with three racing managers he had during the time Nehro was in training – Sohby Sonbol, Bradley Weisbord, and his son, Justin Zayat – “and none of them had ever heard about this foot issue regarding Nehro.”

After finishing second in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Belmont Stakes in 2011, Nehro underwent ankle surgery. He returned in 2012, winning an allowance race before running sixth in the Oaklawn Handicap; second, beaten a nose, in the Pimlico Special; and sixth in the Stephen Foster Handicap. He missed the second half of his 4-year-old season with another ankle problem but returned in April 2013 at Oaklawn Park, where he finished fifth in an allowance race. He died three weeks later at Churchill Downs from a severe case of colic.

Over the weekend, Zayat instructed Asmussen to scratch horses he had entered Sunday at Fair Grounds and Oaklawn.

Zayat said he is “not making a generalization or passing judgment on Steve or Scott on abusing or not abusing” horses.

“Those are not the people I know,” said Zayat, who then called the whole situation “mindboggling.”

Owner Ron Winchell, who has a leading Kentucky Derby candidate in Tapiture and a leading Kentucky Oaks contender in Untapable, said through his racing manager, David Fiske, last weekend that he is keeping his horses with Asmussen.

Phoebe Kushner More than 1 year ago
How can thoroughbred racing fix all these problems and horrific abuses, when it refuses to admit there are problems...Steve Asmussen n his former assistant SHOULD BOTH BE ARRESTED...THEY VIOLATED THE LAW...GIVING MEDICATIONS N INJECTIONS WITH THE HELP OF VETS, TO HORSES THAT DID NOT REQUIRE MEDICATIONS!!
Judy Kirchmann More than 1 year ago
And he choose Lukas? Really? You've got to be kidding me.
Phoebe Kushner More than 1 year ago
GARY STEVENS N D. WAYNE LUKAS SHOULD BOTH BE INVESTIGATED, THEN REMOVED FRM THE HALL OF FAME!!
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
Speechless.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
For crying out loud apologists would your time not be better spent actually accepting the facts and getting on with fixing the problems racing has or at least making intelligent suggestions on how to improve the sport. What delusional universe are you living in?. how can the assmussen stable one of the worst offenders of all time as far as breaking the rules and getting caught .a stable that has already served a long suspension for doping be given the benefit of doubt. Before this video they were already the bad guys and we just got to get an inside glimpse of their operation. by excusing and forgiving these bad actors racing officials are complicit in the embarrassments they cause to the sport.
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
Ray, you appear to be smart about this game. tell me, what would your agenda be if they put you in charge of the PETA investigation? and who do you think should get the shaft?
Sebastian Flyte More than 1 year ago
I watched the video for the fourth time. I apologize. After steadfastly standing by my beliefs that all I saw, was the good, expensive horse care, justified in video. There was one thing I missed. Scott B called a horse a RAT! I had forgotten, in the PETA world its Mr. Ed world. calling a horse a name is.........animal farm......a death penalty. Wish I could hear the PETA members expletives, when they were throwing the carcasses of dogs and cats into the WALMART dumpster.
Phoebe Kushner More than 1 year ago
Then I guess u were sleeping or ARE IN DENIAL, WHEN THEY MENTIONED HOW NEHRO WAS FORCED TO RUN ON NUMBS...BECAUSE HE HAD NO FEET!!! AND DIED A HORRIFIC DEATH, AFTERWARD..according to the former Assistant trainer of Steve Asmussen!!! Huh???
Phoebe Kushner More than 1 year ago
P.s..oh, I guess u thought it was ok..to just.PATCH UP, NEHRO'S FEET with Super glue..right!!
Elaine Parkinson More than 1 year ago
JohnD - agreed and well said as well. How could Nehro even BE in a barn at a race track with at least one foot in the condition it was. Are we to believe that that CD or Saratoga were that ignorant and allowed Nehro to be subjected to SuperGlue inside his foot? In the absence of any real AUTHORITY at the track, who do these trainers/owners answer to, and more importantly; who protects us gamblers? If I read another reply on here from someone who associates someone's post to their inability to be a successful handicapper... I'm going to puke. Nehro's racing record prior to his death was that he was last raced in a Conditioned Allowance Optional Claiming race where he finished 5th? What was he even doing in that type of race and what were his Odds? This I'd love to know. I'll bet that he was at least 2-1 or lower. He was off for 10 months and that should have been Zayat's clue after running in the Stephen Foster at CD 10 months earlier? This was a horse who had a previous layoff of 8.5 months and won almost a Million Dollars and was still eligible for "Non-Winners of 3 Lifetime?" Zayat should have retired him but needed him to win another $22K to make him a millionaire? Nehro died shortly after running in this race in May 2013. Nehro had layoffs of 8.5 months (after finishing 4th in the Belmont) and 10 months after finishing 6th in the Stephen Foster. I didn't bet the race but I hope that some idiot doesn't chime in that the people who bet on him were "poor handi-cappers" who don't know how to win at the track. Like we should know that this entry would result in a "bridge jumpers" worst nightmare? Oh wait, Gary Stevens was on the winner in that race at 4-1 and Nehro went off at $.80 cents. Asmussen trained the 11-1 Odds second Place finisher and Borel rode the real favorite in 3rd Place @ 2.5-1 Odds. The #4-7 exacta paid $76.00 and a 22-1 long shot finished 4th where the $1.00 Super was only $613.00? PLEASE... someone say something about this video now.
Sebastian Flyte More than 1 year ago
yes Elaine, you suck as a handicapper. all the stats are there for you. off the claim, off the layoff....... etc. etc. keep your eyes glued to the favorite, just like you do to the harry potter book smashed into your coke bottle glasses.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
it wasn't PETA saying the horse had all those foot issues it came out of asssmussens assistants mouth and the horses farrier who knows more about what he is doing with the horses foot than anybody else. He said he put super glue in there to hold it together.others have used other types of glue. Glue racing shoes are not that uncommon for training but using super glue as a filler that's just wrong.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Who signs the bills at the end of the month? did they not see vet, or farrier bills for the work on Nehro's feet?. How could this go completely unnoticed by his racing managers?....This is Zayat saving face plain and simple. He then transfers part of his horses to Lukas?, keeps a string with Baffert. Sorry Mr.Zayat, not buying it. Mike Wilson is the best decision you have made outside the care of Paynter.
PHenker More than 1 year ago
Hopefully most of you realize that there probably weren't many vet bills to do with his feet. That wasn't a vet issue as much as something the farrier was taking care of. Zayat knew the horse had an ankle issue and had had surgery on that ankle. That accounted for the breaks in training. As far as his bad feet, there isn't much a vet would have or could have done. Vets only get involved with feet when they ned an xray or injection. Nehro's problems were obvious and wouldn't have called for either of those things. They would have soaked them, poulticed them and then tried to get those bar shoes to stay on. None of which a vet would have been involved in and none of which would have shown up on a bill any more than an owner getting an extra bill for their horse being done up in stable wraps every night.
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
For the most part you are right, except that the bill comes from the trainer, and would have charges for the farrier for bar shoes which would have been a red flag, as long as he used them, a huge red flag, which still leaves no excuse from Zayat.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
I said Vet OR Farrier, either or. So if it was the Farrier, the trainer would get the bill and the owner would sign off on it no? Considering all the problems Paynter had, and the care spent on him, and the injury to Nehro(his beloved horse), how can the ownership not pay more attention to their charges? doesn't his son help run the stable of horses? Just asking.
Elaine Parkinson More than 1 year ago
Winchell will wait until Untapable bounces off that last effort... then change trainers.
Sebastian Flyte More than 1 year ago
Shortcake. Tapiture was my original futures play. Love the horse. I think all his formative young years of wonderful care came from where? the asmussen ranch in tx. oh well .... got this far.... think he will stay.
tim More than 1 year ago
He called the owner a k$nt. what an idiot.
Five More than 1 year ago
Well, we know, Blasi is not a liar.
johnd More than 1 year ago
I don't understand what all the fuss in about. Is this sort of thing "news" to anyone with even a passing understanding of what happens on the backstretch of any racetrack. Come on, get a life. All these practices can be changed if there is the will withing the racing communtity to chang them. Obviously, that will isn't there, so these practices will continue until the Federal Government steps in and then all we'll be reading (and commenting upong) is how unreasonable and unknowledge the Feds are.