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Trainer needs to show respect

Thursday, August 7, 2014
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Gee, it’s a good thing Steve Asmussen rehired Scott Blasi.

Otherwise, he might never have realized in time that the Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the best horse he’s ever trained is on Friday and not Saturday.

I asked Asmussen on Wednesday morning if he would be at the Fasig-Tipton pavilion for Curlin’s induction.

This may otherwise have been a moronic question if not for the extenuating circumstance of Asmussen’s own nomination to the Hall of Fame being tabled in the wake of the PETA hidden-video scandal involving his barn.

Asmussen, the second-leading trainer by wins in North American history, said Curlin’s induction and any animosity he may have toward the Hall are separate issues, and that he had planned to be at the ceremony in support of the 2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year.

On Saturday.

Except that it’s on Friday.

Oh.

Enter Blasi, of all people, to save the day.

Asmussen said that his long-time assistant and the central character in the PETA video was the one who remided him on Wednesday that the ceremony is on Friday.

Problem is, Asmussen is scheduled to fly to Louisville Friday morning to watch some young horses work at Churchill Downs and fly back that night.

Really? Here’s some advice, Steve: cancel that flight, if you haven’t already.

He is worried that his absence would be misperceived as disrespect toward Curlin.

No kidding. I’ll go you one better. If he’s not at the ceremony, it tells me that whatever ill will he feels toward the Hall of Fame supercedes his respect for Curlin. That’s just self-serving and petty.

I know, I know, he has obligations. He said he routinely flies to Louisville and back on Fridays to supervise these baby workouts.

But, come on.

There can be no doubt that Asmussen recognizes not only what Curlin has meant to his career, but how exceedingly rare the horse’s accomplishments were. When he says he respects Curlin, the word doesn’t even seem sufficient to describe his depth of feeling.

Asmussen talks about Curlin’s feats with a genuine tone of wonder, as if he would have an appreciation for it even if Curlin had had the identical career for a different trainer.

“He was capable of doing things for us that we weren’t capable of doing for ourselves,” Asmussen said. “His talent level was obvious, but his strength of character, how he responded to difficult races and circumstances, separated him from anything. We were blessed to be associated with a horse who brought that to the table.”

Blasi has overseen Asmussen’s New York operation for years and had a substantial role in not only Curlin’s success, but Rachel Alexandra’s. Right hand man, indeed.

Well, except for that four-month period during which Blasi was “fired” for starring in the PETA video, which exposed him as a master in the art of profanity, if nothing else.

He is as reviled by racing fans as anyone these days, but has his job back, while he and Asmussen and all of us continue to wait for New York and Kentucky racing commissions to finish investigations into animal abuse allegations made by PETA based on the video taken at Saratoga and Belmont Park last summer.

“It’s great to have him back, that’s all,” Asmussen said. “[He has] a great understanding of me and what I want.”

This was the first year that Asmussen was eligible for the Hall of Fame. The PETA video came out in March, Blasi was fired and the Hall of Fame put Asmussen’s nomination on hold “in the best interests of the institution and the sport of thoroughbred racing in general.”

He claims that racing Hall of Famers are in a unique position because they’re frequently inducted well before their careers are over.

Because of that, he said he’s too preoccupied with the daily operation of his expansive stable to think about the Hall of Fame much.

“And with me never being involved with anything that had been in [the Hall of Fame], it’s all new to me,” he said.

Sorry, but that sounds as disingenuous as it gets.

He’s demonstrated how loyal he is to Blasi.

It’s time to extend the same to Curlin.

 
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