Trainer Steve Asmussen now solely sits atop the North American ranks for number of wins.
After tying Dale Baird's 9,445 wins at Ellis Park Aug. 6, the Hall of Famer earned win No. 9,446 with Stellar Tap Aug. 7 at Saratoga Race Course to break that record. Asmussen was there in person to celebrate the special victory by L and N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds' Tapit colt out of the Medaglia d'Oro mare Gioia Stella. The 2-year-old led early in the fifth race, a seven-furlong maiden special weight, under Asmussen's go-to jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. before opening up down the lane to win on debut.
"For this to unfold on Whitney Day at Saratoga with a 2-year-old that came through mom and dad's program in Laredo and owned by the Winchells, God is great and he continues to bless us," Asmussen said. "This is an amazing sport to be in. I've said it before what these horses can do to make you feel good about yourself."
For Asmussen there was supreme satisfaction in sharing the moment with his family, his wife, Julie, and sons Keith, Darren, and Eric. Through a video feed provided by the New York Racing Association, Asmussen's father, Keith, and mother, Marilyn, were able to congratulate their son as he stood in the winner's circle at the Spa.
"My father is the greatest horseman there is. The way my mom and dad supported me and (his brother Cash) made all of this possible," Asmussen said. "We're so blessed to be in horse racing and have the amazing horses we've had and what we've been able to learn from each and every one of them."
For Santana, the victory was a "dream come true" as he was able to share in the record set by a trainer who has been tremendously supportive of his career.
"To be riding for Steve and his family for so long, I feel they are part of my family now," Santana said. "They have taught me so much about racing. I dreamed about doing this ever since he tied the record yesterday."
Asmussen, 55, won his first race as a trainer at Ruidoso Downs in 1986, his first year on the job. Since then his trainees have earned over $361 million and he has trained Horses of the Year Curlin, Rachel Alexandra, and Gun Runner. He won the Eclipse Award for outstanding trainer in 2008 and 2009 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016. Other career highlights include winning the 2007 and 2009 Grade 1 Preakness Stakes with Curlin and Rachel Alexandra, respectively, and the 2016 Grade 1 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets with Creator. Asmussen has won seven Breeders' Cup races, including the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2007 with Curlin and again in 2017 with Gun Runner.
Asmussen is also second in the all-time earnings category, trailing only new Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, whose horses have earned over $410 million.
To commemorate the record, NYRA presented Asmussen with a lawn jockey holding a sign that notes his new role as North America's winningest trainer. -Bob Ehalt and Christine Oser