Horse Racing

Steve Asmussen – Kentucky Derby 2024 Trainer Profile

FanDuel Staff
FanDuel Staff
Steve Asmussen – Kentucky Derby 2024 Trainer Profile

Steve Asmussen sent out his first starter in 1985 and has built a Hall of Fame career in the ensuing four decades. In addition to being enshrined in that place of honor in 2016, he has also won a pair of Eclipse Awards for outstanding trainer in 2008 and 2009. With over 10,000 career wins, he is the all-time wins leader in North American racing. And, those wins have come at all levels of the sport, from claiming races to the sport’s dazzling heights.

Asmussen has eight winners at the Breeders’ Cup, with his first coming in 2007 when Curlin splashed home in the Monmouth mud to take the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Steve Asmussen also has two winners of the Kentucky Oaks (G1), the most iconic fillies’ race at Churchill Downs. Summerly won for him in 2005, and he returned in 2014 with Untapable.

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Kentucky Derby History

Steve Asmussen has won many of the biggest prizes in horse racing, but has yet to train a Kentucky Derby winner. Between 2001 and 2023, the Hall of Fame trainer has run 25 horses in Churchill Downs’ most famous race. He has never done better than a second-place finish. He has done that with three horses: Nehro (2011), Lookin at Lee (2017), and Epicenter (2022). He has also finished third with a pair of contenders, Curlin (2007) and Gun Runner (2016).

Asmussen has run 16 horses in the Preakness Stakes, and his two winners are two of the most iconic winners in the history of the second jewel of the Triple Crown. Curlin won the Preakness in 2007. The filly Rachel Alexandra, moved to his barn after her 20 ¼-length triumph in the 2009 Kentucky Oaks, welcomed herself with a victory over Mine That Bird in the Preakness. Asmussen also finished runner-up in the Preakness with Midnight Bourbon (2021) and Episcenter (2022), and third with Astrology (2011) and Tenfold (2018).

Among eight career Belmont Stakes starters, Asmussen accompanied one to the winners’ circle: the striking gray Creator who upset the race in 2016. His one other horse to hit the board in the final jewel of the Triple Crown was Curlin, second by a nose in the 2007 edition after a battle for the ages with Rags to Riches.

Track Phantom

Steve Asmussen’s lone contender in the 2024 Kentucky Derby is Track Phantom, a colt by Florida Derby (G1) winner Quality Road out of the Into Mischief mare Miss Sunset, a sprinter who won at the Grade 2 level and hit the board at the top level. Track Phantom sold for $500,000 as a yearling to L & N Racing, who owns the horse in partnership with Clark Brewster, Jerry Caroom, and his breeder Breeze Easy. Joel Rosario has been Track Phantom’s regular jockey, in the irons for four of his last five races.

Two-Year-Old Season

It took Track Phantom three tries to break his maiden, with all of his maiden special weight attempts coming at Churchill Downs. He finished third beaten 2 ½ on debut in a one-turn mile on October 1 that proved to be high-quality: the two horses who beat him, Stronghold and Resilience, have both earned their way into the Kentucky Derby.

Track Phantom returned in another maiden special weight dirt mile at Churchill later that month, finishing second to Real Men Violin, who went on to finish second in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in his next start. Favored in his third start and first at two turns, Track Phantom disputed the early pace, kicked away in the lane, and graduated by 4 ¾ lengths over Lat Long.

In the fourth and final start of his juvenile year, Track Phantom stepped up to the Kentucky Derby trail for the Gun Runner Stakes at Fair Grounds. He disputed the early pace with Next Level, cleared off with about three furlongs remaining, and kept finding enough in the lane to win by 1 ¼ lengths over Snead.

Three-year-old Season

Track Phantom continued down the Fair Grounds spur of the Kentucky Derby trail into his three-year-old year. In the Lecomte Stakes (G3), he got things his own way: he made it to the lead, repulsed a bid from Nash around the far turn, drove clear, and won by 2 ¾ lengths over Nash.

He returned in a deep edition of the Risen Star Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds on February 17. Allowed to set the pace, he could not hold off the closing run of favored Sierra Leone late, settling for second by just half a length. Along with Sierra Leone and Track Phantom, third-place Catching Freedom, fourth-place Resilience, and fifth-place Honor Marie are all Kentucky Derby-bound.

Asmussen sent Track Phantom out for his final prep in the Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 23. He found his customary place on the pace, though he took sustained pressure from Common Defense. Track Phantom continued to make the running past midstretch, but could not stave off the closers late and settled for fourth, 2 ½ lengths behind Catching Freedom.

Track Phantom will bring good Churchill Downs form to the Kentucky Derby. Speed can be an asset on the first Saturday in May as well, though Track Phantom is unlikely to get an easy time with horses like Fierceness and Dornoch in the mix. The distance also raises serious questions, as his prep race form has started to flatten out as the races get longer, not the best sign for stretching out to 1 ¼ miles.

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