Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Asmussen: good and bad

Yesterday's news that Churchill Downs would pay a $15,000 fine issued by the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority for hiring an assistant starter just prior to the Kentucky Derby seems, like all inter-industry fines, too small and of no consequence when there should be a consequence.
Apparently Steve Asmussen wanted his own starter to load Pyro. The request, initially denied, was somehow granted and Clinton Beck was hired and loaded Pyro. Apparently no specific guilt has been assigned so an agreement was reached where Churchill will pay $15,000 and all seem happy. Although Asmussen and Beck, reportedly, will still have to meet with the stewards.
I don't see this as a happilly ever after scenario. Someones head should roll. Once again, to me, this is an issue of integrity. What if Pyro had won the Derby? Many more and serious questions would have had to been asked and answered. Doubt would be cast and a pall would have settled over the validity of the Derby. I'm not saying that improprieties were committed or intended. I don't believe they were. But I believe that everyone has to play by the same rules. The field has to be level for all. Steve Asmussen cannot be granted favors because of the power of his barn. The power of his barn already gives him an advantage, that of quality and quantity of horses. This is an obvious blunder and whoever eventually granted the request should be dismissed and Asmussen should pay the fine. Both parties need to be held accountable. I'm not sure what role Beck played other than being the pawn but he should be investigated and, if any wrongdoing is found, appropriate actions should be taken. I don't think I can state any more clearly how I feel about any issue that will infringe upon the integrity of the sport. Believe me I would like to see Steve Asmussen do well for reasons I mentioned in my previous post, however, this is just way out of bounds as far as I'm concerned. The sport cannot play favorites, regardless of the hand one holds. I guess Churchill just likes to throw things Steve's way. An extra $250,000 to run, an extra starter to load, what next?

As long as I'm on the subject of the Asmussen barn... I really hope that the experiment with Curlin on the grass works out. I hope he does end up running and winning the 'Arc. What an absolutely wonderful story that would be. Added to his Preakness, B.C. and Dubai Cup wins it would be an accomplishment of absolutely legendary proportions! Truly, in Curlin we have a horse everyone can appreciate and root for. With every race it is becoming more and more obvious that we are watching one of the true greats of all time. Relish every second, it will likely be a while before another of his ilk comes along.

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