Barn Notes 2/11/24

Compiled by Robert Yates

After becoming the first trainer to reach 900 career victories at Oaklawn, Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen is off and running toward 1,000.

Asmussen saddled three more winners Saturday, including Valentine Candy in the inaugural $150,000 Ozark Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters, bumping his total to 904. Asmussen also won three races Friday. Asmussen’s 900th victory fell on the 28th anniversary of his first in Hot Springs. Ditto for his Oaklawn stakes resume.

After the first 22 of the scheduled 26 days of racing that began Dec. 8, Asmussen leads all trainers in victories (28), purse earnings ($2,056,319) and stakes victories (five). Asmussen’s torrid start has him on pace to set single-season Oaklawn records in each category.

“We’ve got some fantastic horses,” Asmussen said moments after the Ozark. “We’ve got the greatest clients in the world, and they continue to give us unbelievable opportunities and try to make the most of it.”

Asmussen surpassed $2 million in purse earnings at the meet when Valentine Candy ($5) came from just off the pace to win the Ozark by 2 ½ lengths under Ricardo Santana Jr.

The Ozark was the meet-high third stakes victory for Valentine Candy, who also won the $150,000 Advent Dec. 8 and $150,000 Renaissance Dec. 31. Asmussen said Valentine Candy will target the $200,000 Bachelor Stakes at 6 furlongs April 27 at Oaklawn. Asmussen has won the Bachelor a record eight times.

“This is a great series here for a horse of his quality,” Asmussen said. “Fortunate to have these opportunities to run him without him having to travel and I think it will show off in the second half of the year.”

Campaigned by an ownership group that includes Texans William and Corinne Heiligbrodt – longtime Asmussen clients – Valentine Candy raised his career earnings to $351,675 with his fourth victory from seven starts. The son of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify was a July 22 debut winner at Saratoga.

The Ozark was the record-extending 109th career Oaklawn stakes victory for Asmussen, North America’s all-time winningest trainer with 10,393 victories through Saturday.

During the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting, Asmussen surpassed the late Bob Holthus (867 career victories) as its all-time winningest trainer. Earlier in the meeting, Asmussen became the first trainer to reach 10,000 career North American victories.

Asmussen won his first race at Oaklawn Feb. 9, 1996, with Honest J and first stakes race ($50,000 Mountain Valley for 3-year-old sprinters) the following day with Valid Expectations, who would become the trainer’s first nationally prominent horse.

Asmussen has collected a record 12 Oaklawn training titles. Now in his crosshairs are single-season Oaklawn records for victories (71 in 2003 by the late Cole Norman), purse earnings ($6,057,877 in 2021 by Asmussen) and stakes victories (nine in 2022-2023 by Brad Cox).

“We’re blessed with unbelievable horses,” Asmussen said. “We continue to get these opportunities and we try to make the most of them.”

Power Couple

Millionaire multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Yuugiri, who was retired following a runner-up finish in the $1 million G1-Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Nov. 4 at Santa Anita, will be bred to champion Elite Power, trainer Rodolphe Brisset said Saturday afternoon.

Brisset trained Yuugiri, who won Oaklawn’s $600,000 G3-Fantasy Stakes in 2022 and its $150,000 Carousel Stakes for older female sprinters last February. Elite Power won the $2 million G1Breeders’ Cup Sprint in 2022 and 2023 en route to Eclipse Awards as the country’s champion male sprinter.

“Pretty good match,” Brisset said. “I like it.”

Yuugiri compiled a 7-3-1 record from 15 lifetime starts and earned $1,360,585. She also won the six-furlong $350,000 G2-Raven Run Stakes Oct. 7 at Keeneland.