03/12/2014 2:19PM

Tapiture could key Asmussen's Kentucky Derby-Hall of Fame double

Coady Photography
Tapiture won the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn last month and will try to land the Rebel Stakes there Saturday.

You never know where trainer Steve Asmussen will be from one day to the next, be it a horse sale in Florida or overseeing his string of runners at Fair Grounds or Oaklawn Park, but there is one place he’s usually certain to be found – atop the standings at the tracks where he’s got full strings.

Asmussen wins races by the bushel. Going into Wednesday’s races, he had won 6,715 of them in North America, placing him second on the all-time list while still, at age 48, in the prime of his career. All his success – including two Eclipse Awards as champion trainer, a single-season wins record of 650 in 2009, a pair of Preakness wins, and three straight Horse of the Year titles with Curlin and Rachel Alexandra – earned him a spot last week as a finalist for induction into the sport’s Hall of Fame this year.

If Asmussen finishes in the top four in voting among the 10 finalists, he’s in.

Asmussen, whose parents – Keith and Marilyn – have a training center in Texas, and whose brother, Cash, was a champion jockey both here and in France, said getting on the ballot for the first time was overwhelming.

“It was very special to be able to call my mom and dad and tell them,” he said Wednesday from New Orleans. “It means a great deal to them. They’re very proud of their son.”

But what did it mean to him?

“There’s so many people who are a part of it, so I get to share it with them,” Asmussen said. “It means a tremendous amount of work on their part to put me in this position. I’m very grateful.”

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Over the next few days, Asmussen will have plenty of chances to add to his win total. His barn will be represented by runners at Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Oaklawn Park, and Santa Anita. He is leading the standings at Fair Grounds, is tied for first at Oaklawn, and just won the training title at Sam Houston, which closed Tuesday.

No race this week, though, will be as important as the Grade 2, $600,000 Rebel Stakes on Saturday at Oaklawn, where Asmussen will send out Tapiture, the winner of the Southwest Stakes in his last start Feb. 17. Tapiture is regarded as one of the leading contenders for the May 3 Kentucky Derby, and he’s already proven at Churchill Downs, having won the Kentucky Jockey Club last fall in his final start at age 2.

Tapiture got a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 98 in the Southwest, which was his first start in 2 1/2 months. The Rebel is 26 days after the Southwest and comes four weeks before Oaklawn’s premier race for 3-year-olds, the Arkansas Derby, on April 12.

Tapiture had trained most of the winter at Fair Grounds, shipped to Oaklawn a week prior to the Southwest, and has remained at Oaklawn since.

“We didn’t want to put any more miles on him than necessary,” Asmussen said. “The 26 days between his last race is a bit of a concern, so we’ve trained him accordingly. We wanted to give the Southwest the respect the race deserved.”

Asmussen said he was able to work around the recent cold weather in Arkansas. Tapiture has had two drills since the Southwest. The first was scheduled for March 3, but Asmussen moved it up to March 2 due to the weather forecast. He was glad he did.

“I got to work on Sunday morning, and it was 64 degrees when I drove in, and by the time I drove out, it was 34,” he said. “They ended up canceling after the fourth race that day, and on Monday, the racetrack was closed. It was 18 that morning.”

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Tapiture worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 on March 2, then came back with an easy half-mile in 50.20 seconds Monday.

In addition to Tapiture, Asmussen trains the regally bred Gold Hawk, who is scheduled to make his next start in the Louisiana Derby on March 29 at Fair Grounds. Gold Hawk – who is by Empire Maker and out of the champion filly Caressing – won his first two starts, then was third in the Lecomte and fifth in the Risen Star in his two stakes appearances.

“I think he’s a typical Empire Maker in that he’s going to be better as he gets older,” Asmussen said. “He’s got a lot of talent, but he’s not quite there yet, mentally and physically. But you can see him getting better every day. We’ve stepped his training up a bit. We feel he’s headed in the right direction.”

Rick Baldwin More than 1 year ago
He ain't been doing anything at the Big A,hope he 's doing better elsewhere.
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
Here's my pace and "work" calculations. Have fun... 01. Jet Cat furlongs 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.0 pace figures 88 92 75 67 work/furlong 31.2 35.7 19.3 13.4 0.70 work subtotal 62 71 39 27 running total 134 172 199 (3rd race back) furlongs 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.0 pace figures 83 85 79 73 work/furlong 26.8 28.8 22.6 18.1 0.80 work subtotal 54 58 45 36 running total 111 157 193 ================================ 02. Ride On Curlin furlongs 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.5 pace figures 87 85 78 69 work/furlong 30.7 28.0 21.6 15.1 0.70 work subtotal 61 56 43 38 running total 118 161 199 furlongs 2.0 2.0 1.0 1.0 pace figures 107 92 73 63 work/furlong 53.5 35.3 18.0 11.2 0.62 work subtotal 107 71 18 11 running total 178 196 207 ================================ 03. Tapiture furlongs 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.5 pace figures 89 83 78 77 work/furlong 32.0 26.6 21.9 20.9 0.95 work subtotal 64 53 44 52 running total 117 161 213 furlongs 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.5 pace figures 78 89 82 75 work/furlong 21.8 32.3 25.9 19.4 0.75 work subtotal 44 65 52 49 running total 108 160 209 ================================ 04. Strong Mandate furlongs 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.5 pace figures 85 85 78 74 work/furlong 28.7 28.7 22.2 18.7 0.85 work subtotal 57 57 44 47 running total 115 159 206 furlongs 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.5 pace figures 91 93 80 63 work/furlong 34.1 37.2 23.4 10.9 0.47 work subtotal 68 74 47 27 running total 142 189 217 ================================ 05. Hoppertunity furlongs 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.5 pace figures 75 85 80 78 work/furlong 19.5 28.4 23.5 22.4 0.95 work subtotal 39 57 47 56 running total 96 143 199 furlongs 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.0 pace figures 87 86 76 76 work/furlong 30.2 29.7 20.3 20.6 1.01 work subtotal 60 59 41 41 running total 120 160 202 ================================ 06. Sheltowee's Boy furlongs 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.0 pace figures 83 89 81 72 work/furlong 26.0 32.8 24.3 17.3 0.71 work subtotal 52 66 49 35 running total 118 166 201 furlongs 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.0 pace figures 85 89 78 67 work/furlong 28.7 32.6 21.7 13.7 0.63 work subtotal 57 65 43 27 running total 123 166 194 ================================ 07. Street Strategy furlongs 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.0 pace figures 90 87 80 71 work/furlong 33.1 30.5 24.0 16.4 0.68 work subtotal 66 61 48 33 running total 127 175 208 furlongs 2.0 2.0 1.0 1.0 pace figures 98 89 82 75 work/furlong 42.4 32.5 25.7 19.3 0.75 work subtotal 85 65 26 19 running total 150 175 195 ================================ 08. Kobe's Back furlongs 2.0 2.0 2.0 1.0 pace figures 85 93 84 78 work/furlong 28.0 37.2 27.8 21.9 0.79 work subtotal 56 74 56 22 running total 130 186 208 (3rd race back) furlongs 2.0 2.0 2.0 1.0 pace figures 89 87 80 80 work/furlong 32.4 30.5 23.9 23.9 1.00 work subtotal 65 61 48 24 running total 126 174 198
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
BTW: These are based on BRIS ratings...not Beyer...
Daniel Alvarado More than 1 year ago
Like Strong Mandate but I don't like the way he looked in the stretch last out. If he's the horse I think he is, he should win comfortably on Saturday.
G More than 1 year ago
He should rebound well in this race. He, like other horses missed training due to the weather. I hope he got enough work in and that he handles an off track.
Mark More than 1 year ago
He will love an off track . See hopeful !
gallopingtom More than 1 year ago
Tapit's are automatic throw outs on Derby day! Not a leading contender! Horse has ZERO chance going 1 1/4
Daniel Alvarado More than 1 year ago
Don't trust Tapits going beyond 1 1/8 either
G More than 1 year ago
Saturday the track will be sloppy and speed favoring. It will be raining from Friday evening through Saturday, according to the forecast.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
needs uniform sized font like courier
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
Tapiture took advantage of post position in the Southwest. There was a lot of traffic in the first turn. Both Ride on Curlin and Strong Mandate were victimized by their outside posts which caused them to both run very wide. On Saturday, all 3 of them are together with an equal chance at the first turn. Tapiture will not have it his way. Meanwhile, this will cause a hole just behind these 3 where Calvin Borel will be able to put Street Stategy into a stalking position. As the leaders run themselves out, Street Strategy may just ride the rail to victory. I see Ride on Curlin dropping out for sure, with Kobe's Back coming on late. Should make for an interesting race indeed...
G More than 1 year ago
Ride On Curlin will love the off track, its supposed to start raining Friday evening and continue through Saturday!
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
If he could not do more than a distant 3rd in an overnight handicap after finishing within 1.5 lengths of Honor Code in the Champagne, I doubt he runs past 6 furlong in this. (FYI: Honor Code went on to beat Cairo Prince in the Remsen following the Champagne.) I wouldn't bet Ride On Curlin in this race...not a chance. He will be an also-ran.
G More than 1 year ago
You do know that pretty much only Tapiture came into the Southwest without missing training, dont you? Thats a big part of why he looked so great and everyone else looked pretty flat. The horses at Oaklawn missed two weeks of traing just before the Southwest due to weathe conditions, while Tapiture shipped in from thr Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
That has nothing to do with this. When you have Curlin's stud fee at $25k and the colt sells at auction for $25k, one has to wonder what was visibly wrong with the conformation to warrant such a low price. He doesn't seem to put 2 decent efforts together. Unfortunately, he...as well as Strong Mandate...drew outside and got caught in major traffic in the clubhouse turn of the Southwest. However, he doesn't seem to be able to run back to this effort...not in my opinion anyway. We'll see for sure on Saturday...
RICKY More than 1 year ago
Rosario jumps off Kobe's Back to ride Strong Mandiate dont have to be to much of a genius to figure out which has a better chance of winning.
John Burton More than 1 year ago
Untapable-Tapiture? I like the sound of that Oaks-Derby Double!
Randy Atkins More than 1 year ago
I'm in total agreement on that one...let's get those "TAP" horses in there
Mark More than 1 year ago
Strong Mandate will turn the tables.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Slop / wet moves him up more !!!!!