Updated on 09/18/2011 2:12AM

Taking the reins with a firm hand


LEXINGTON, Ky. - To say that just anyone could plug into the huge racing operation that Scott Blasi has overseen for the last three months would run the risk of underestimating the experience and work ethic that Blasi brings to the job.

Blasi assumed command of the Steve Asmussen juggernaut on July 10 after Asmussen, who set a North American record for a trainer by winning 555 races in 2004, was suspended six months for a medication positive in Louisiana. Since then, the far-flung stable has continued humming on all cylinders, winning 99 races and more than $3.2 million in purses (through Tuesday) with Blasi at the helm.

"Our stable's been set up to run itself for a long time," said Blasi (pronounced BLAH-zee). "Even after Steve got the days, it's been pretty much business as usual."

Keeneland fans who were accustomed to seeing Asmussen's name - and it was hard to miss last April, considering the stable won 7 of the 12 races for 2-year-olds at the spring meet - will be seeing Blasi's name just as much this fall. On Tuesday morning at Keeneland, the 33-year-old Kansas native was as busy as a person could possibly be, preparing the stable for an all-out assault on the fall meet.

"We've got 23 workers this morning" from the local string of 36 horses, he said while ponying one toward the track. "And we had six yesterday. We're here to run, that's for sure."

Blasi has worked for the last 11 years for Asmussen, most of them as his top assistant.

"He had a tremendous amount of responsibility even before I was ruled off," Asmussen said Wednesday from Arlington, Tex., where he has been spending time with his wife, Julie, and three sons, in addition to attending various horse sales throughout the country.

Because of restrictions imposed by regulatory bodies in Louisiana and Kentucky, communication for business purposes is expressly prohibited between the two men. Asmussen, 41, said he has watched from afar as Blasi has won at an 18-percent clip, only slightly below the 20-percent rate that Asmussen has for his career.

"I'm certainly not surprised with the success that Scott's had," said Asmussen, who already had racked up 241 wins and $7.7 million in earnings this year before the suspension. "His work ethic and his talents as a horseman are top-rate."

Blasi will be front and center in two major races on opening weekend at Keeneland. He will saddle Appealing Zophie for the Alcibiades on Friday, and Summerly, the 2005 Kentucky Oaks winner, for the Spinster on Sunday.

Appealing Zophie, a romping winner of the Grade 1 Spinaway in her last start, "is a very accomplished filly," said Blasi. "Hopefully she adapts to the Polytrack, and I think she will, although you never know until you run them on it. She's also going long for the first time, so that's a different style of race for her to adapt to. Hopefully it's within her."

As for Summerly, Blasi said: "This will be her third start off a layoff, and she's trained well. It's a tall task running against fillies like Happy Ticket and Spun Sugar with their form, but hopefully she's coming into top form, too."

Added together, the 2006 statistics for Asmussen and Blasi - 340 wins and almost $11 million in earnings - places the stable second in each category, behind Scott Lake and Todd Pletcher, respectively. Such high standing is something that Blasi, as a longtime member of the Asmussen team, is quite proud of upholding.

"Steve couldn't always be everywhere at the same time, just like I can't," he said. "It doesn't feel that much different than before, to be honest."