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Steven M. Asmussen

Steven M. Asmussen
Induction Year: 
Nov. 18, 1965, Gettysburg, S.D.
Career Years: 
Number of Starters: 
Number of Winners: 
Winning Percentage: 

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Steve Asmussen’s time as a jockey didn’t amount to much glory — he registered only 63 wins before he outgrew the saddle — but Asmussen’s brief stint as a rider was only a precursor to one of the most successful training careers in American racing history and a spot in the Hall of Fame.


A native of Gettysburg, S.D., Asmussen gave up riding in 1984 and transitioned into conditioning racehorses. The results have been nothing short of sensational. Since 1986, Asmussen has trained the winners of 7,318 races (through June 12, 2016) and his starters have combined to earn more than $243 million. Among North American trainers, Asmussen ranks second all time in wins and fourth in earnings. He has 190 graded stakes wins to his credit, including three races in the Triple Crown series: the Preakness Stakes in 2007 and 2008 and the Belmont Stakes in 2016.


Considering his family’s involvement in the sport, it comes as no surprise that Asmussen has enjoyed success in racing. His parents, Keith and Marilyn, are both former trainers and currently operate the El Primero Training Center in Laredo, Texas. Asmussen’s older brother, Cash, won an Eclipse Award as a jockey and also had success as a trainer.


Working with the family’s horses while growing up, Asmussen dreamed of being a jockey, but he grew to be more than six feet tall and was forced into another career path.


“No one would believe me if I didn’t have the pictures to prove it,” Asmussen said of his brief jockey career. “My parents are 5-foot-5 and 5-foot-2, so I don’t know what happened.”


Once his size necessitated changing careers, Asmussen returned to the family farm in Texas and broke yearlings before going out to train on his own in 1986 with some of his family’s horses. He won his first race as a trainer at the age of 20 that year at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico and earned his first stakes win the following year.


“I’ve been blessed to have always had great support from my family and I’ve got a great team around me that has made the operation successful,” the 50-year-old Asmussen said. “I’ve also been fortunate to work for some terrific owners who have provided the opportunities to train for them. I have a lot to be thankful for.”


The Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Trainer in 2008 and 2009, Asmussen trained three consecutive Horse of the Year winners in Curlin (2007 and 2008) and fellow 2016 Hall of Fame inductee Rachel Alexandra (2009). Asmussen saddled both horses to victories in the Preakness Stakes for majority owner Stonestreet Stables.


“Curlin and Rachel are two of the most remarkable horses I’ve ever seen,” Asmussen said. “Their achievements will be talked about for a long time and it was an honor to have the chance to work with horses of that caliber. You’re fortunate if you get one that good in a lifetime.”


Along with Curlin and Rachel Alexandra, Asmussen has also trained the champions Kodiak Cowboy (2009 Champion Sprinter), My Miss Aurelia (2011 Champion 2-Year-Old Filly) and Untapable (2014 Champion 3-Year-Old Filly).


According to Equibase data, Asmussen has ranked in the top 10 among North American trainers in both wins and earnings every year since 2000. In 2004, he won 555 races to surpass the single-year record of 496 that had been held by Hall of Fame member Jack Van Berg since 1976. Asmussen broke his own record in 2008 with 621 wins and topped in again with 650 wins in 2009. He has led all North American trainers in wins nine times and in earnings three times.


Asmussen’s Grade 1 victories include multiple editions of the Kentucky Oaks (2005, 2014), Jockey Club Gold Cup (2007, 2008, 2010), Frizette Stakes (2011, 2015), Cotillion Stakes (2012, 2014), Mother Goose Stakes (1999, 2009, 2014), Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (2010, 2013) and Woodward Stakes (2008, 2009). He has won five Breeders’ Cup races and enjoyed consistent success at a variety of racetracks.


In the fall of 2015, Asmussen won his record 17th training title at Churchill Downs. He has also won 13 training titles at Fair Grounds, 11 at both Remington Park and Lone Star Park, eight at Sam Houston Race Park and six at Oaklawn Park. In 2012, Asmussen became the first trainer to surpass 1,000 career wins at Lone Star.


In 2016, less than two months after he was elected to the Hall of Fame, Asmussen won his third race in the Triple Crown series when Creator defeated Destin in a photo to win the Belmont Stakes.


“It’s a tremendous honor to be elected to the Hall of Fame and I’m humbled to be included in such a group of great trainers,” Asmussen said. “I hope to be able to continue to do this for a long time. I love what I do and couldn’t imagine anything else I would want to do more.”