HERE’s the latest story of deep lows and great highs, so often evident in racing.
Midway through 2014, US trainer Steve Asmussen was Public Enemy Number One after being accused of mistreating horses. He hit rock bottom. In September 2015 his wife, Julie, was diagnosed with cancer of the throat and neck.
In March 2016, after months of radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery, Julie was declared cancer free. In June 2016, specifically on Saturday, 11 June, Steve Asmussen won the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park, with Creator.
“It’s very hard. It was a very trying seven months,” said Julie in an interview after her PET scans had come back clear.
At the time Asmussen, known for his wild mane of grey hair and intense personality, commented: “Our three boys stepped up wonderfully to support Julie. I’ve found that kids are like racehorses – it’s all about the mare.”
The trainer’s professional troubles started two years ago. He was fingered by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, investigated by racing commissions in Kentucky and New York, removed from the ballot for the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, and warned by the head of The Jockey Club to stay away from Churchill Downs during the week of the 2014 Kentucky Derby.
But after exhaustive inquiries by the states of Kentucky and an even longer one in New York, Asmussen was largely exonerated, except for being cited for a few minor transgressions in New York.
In April 2016, Asmussen was voted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame after being taken off the ballot and is now considered to have his strongest string of horses ever.
Creator was purchased as a yearling by the WinStar Farm of Kenny Troutt, who is deeply religious, hence the horse’s name. Creator raced for WinStar for his first nine starts, but celebrity chef Bobby Flay bought a minority share in Creator earlier this week and a few days later, he cooked up a classic winner.
Creator finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby five weeks ago, but his fortunes changed as he edged out Destin near the post in the Belmont under a top ride from young Irad Ortiz, Jr.
On was a warm, humid afternoon in New York, the rain came down just after the Belmont. “The rain that fell Saturday was like a final, welcomed cleanse, as Asmussen accepted congratulations for winning the biggest race in a state whose gaming board once held his fate,” reported Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form (DRF).
Creator is a dappled grey by leading stallion Tapit from Morena (PER) by Privately Held.