By now, most of you have seen the video released by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which was made by a PETA informant who went undercover as an employee for trainer Steve Asmussen.
The video, reportedly shot at Saratoga and Churchill Downs, showed some damaging stuff including generous usage of therapeutic drugs, Kentucky Derby runner up Nehro’s bad feet, talk of undocumented workers making less than minimum wage and using fake names, mentions of jockeys using buzzers, and enough f-bombs by assistant trainer Scott Blasi to make a trucker blush.
PETA has sent formal complaints to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, New York State Gaming Commission, Internal Revenue Service, Kentucky Labor Cabinet, Louisville Metro Animal Service, New York Department of Labor, New York State Education Department, U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Department of Labor, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
I have heard more times than I can count that this is yet another black eye for racing. However, to me this seems more like an open gaping wound, and it may be infected.
Sure, PETA has an agenda and seems to be run my complete nutjobs. Everyone knows that except for the ignorant people that still donate to the organization that seems to worry more about making headlines than the actual welfare of animals.
(By the way PETA, in case you are reading this, my exterminator was here today and he gassed a large mound of fire ants in my backyard. Picket my house at your own peril. I live in Florida and we all know what that means. And that skinny leather tie still in my closet? I plan on wearing it the next time The Fleshtones, Flock of Seagulls or Joe Jackson come to town).
No matter how crazy PETA is, there is no doubt that seven minute video was disturbing. Asmussen decided to fire his longtime assistant Blasi. The two have worked together for nearly two decades. It could not have been easy, but there was no choice.
Blasi ran horses in his name while Asmussen served out a six-month suspension back in 2006 for a medication infraction at Evangeline Downs. His horse No End in Sight tested positive for the Class 2 drug Mepivicaine, a local anesthetic.
What now? The various industry groups said they will investigate the charges made by PETA, but it is going to take some time, and the horse racing industry really does not have much.
The Kentucky Derby is only 40 days away and Asmussen has a leading contender in Tapiture and has a leading contender for the Kentucky Oaks in Untapable.
Both are owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds. David Fiske, the racing manager for owner Ron Winchel told The Daily Racing Form, “I think it’s just too close to the second and third of May to take these horses away from the people, the routine, the feed, and everything they’ve known for the last two years and put them someplace else. That’s not in the horses’ best interests.”
Winchell has had a long relationship with Asmussen and he is in a real tough spot. Asmussen is not just a run of the mill trainer. He has won 6,728 races in his career and was on the ballot for the Hall of Fame this year before the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame tabled his nomination this week.
Zayat Sables scratched their horses that they have with Asmussen that were scheduled to run this weekend. Zayat has not made a final decision on whether he will keep Asmussen as trainer, but it seems unlikely he will. Now it is time for Winchell Thoroughbreds to step up
Tapiture is coming off a game second in the Rebel Stakes (G2) and is being pointed toward the Arkansas Derby (G1) as his final prep for the Run for the Roses. Untapable won the Rachel Alexandra (G3) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 22 and is set to go in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) on March 29 with the Kentucky Oaks the ultimate goal.
Both are legit horses that have a good shot of winning two of the most high profile races of the year. We saw the media circus back in 2008 surrounding Rick Dutrow after he admitted Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown was on Winstrol, an anabolic steroid.
Tapiture Runs Second in Rebel
Dutrow is currently serving a 10-year suspension handed down in 2011 by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board for a variety of rules violations.
The media attention surrounding Asmussen may be greater than with Dutrow during Big Brown’s Triple Crown bid. While Fiske noted moving to another trainer is not in the “horses’ best interests,” do we really think a move to a trainer like Bill Mott or Graham Motion would have any downside? I don’t.
Winchell and Asmussen’s other owners with high profile horses need to do the right thing. They need to replace Asmussen. I did not say “fire” him, just replace him.
Let the investigations play out, although we know that could literally take years. However, come the first Friday and Saturday of May, we need to at the very least put a tourniquet on that open gaping wound.
The industry needs to rid itself of Asmussen, at least temporarily. I’m guessing Dutrow could use a caddy.
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