The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame has put trainer Steve Asmussen’s Hall of Fame nomination on hold while New York and Kentucky investigate claims against Asmussen of animal abuse by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The allegations came to light in a story published by the New York Times on Wednesday night that included undercover video of activity at Asmussen’s barns at Saratoga Race Course and Churchill Downs.
The nine-minute video was culled from seven hours of video taken from April to August of last year.
PETA wants sanctions, including
license suspension and criminal charges, against Asmussen and assistant Scott Blasi for alleged animal abuse, the misuse of drugs on horses and fraud.
Asmussen was nominated for induction to the Hall of Fame for the first time this year.
As of Thursday, he ranked second all-time among trainers with 6,725 wins and fifth in purse money with $214,683,696.
Among the horses he’s trained are two Horse of the Year champions, Curlin and Rachel Alexandra, who clinched the 2009 award by beating males in the Woodward a Saratoga.
The PETA complaint alleges “chronic misuse of drugs apparently to enhance horses’ performance and mask their injuries” at the Asmussen barn and was prompted by video taken by a female PETA employee who worked undercover for Asmussen last year.
The New York State Gaming Commission and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission are looking into the allegations.
The Hall of Fame “has decided it is in the best interests of the institution and the sport of thoroughbred racing in general to table the 2014 Hall of Fame nomination of trainer Steve Asmussen,” the Hall said in a statement on Friday.
The Hall of Fame will vote on nine remaining nominees to produce four inductees for 2014.
El Camino Real Deby winner Tamarando is a slight favorite in one of two Kentucky Derby preps this weekend.
He’s 3-1 on the morning line in the Spiral at Turfway Park against 11 rivals that include We Miss Artie and the top two finishers from the John Battaglia at Turfway, Solitary Ranger and Poker Player.
The Spiral is worth 50 points to the winner in the Derby qualifying system.
Owned by Susan Moulton, Solitary Ranger led the Battaglia gate to wire, opening up an eight-length lead and holding on by a margin of 43⁄4 lengths over his stablemate. Because Solitary Ranger is by U S Ranger, who never won at a distance beyond one mile, there are concerns about his ability to carry his speed over nine furlongs.
“Being a $500,000 race and a points race, Ms. Susan would rather take a shot at the distance for $500,000 than take a shot at a [shorter] distance for $100,000,” trainer Wayne Catalano told the Turfway press office. “We’ll take a shot at it, and if everything goes well, he might be OK. I glanced at the race, and it does show that he’s the speed of the race.
“Poker Player, if he runs like he did last time, the more added ground that he’s going to get, the mile and an eighth, he’s going to appreciate that.”
The other Derby prep, the $800,000 Sunland Derby, will be held Sunday at Sunland Park and has drawn Midnight Hawk, co-owned by Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville and Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice.
The 5-2 favorite is coming off a second in the San Felipe and a third in the Robert Lewis.
Romansh, who won the Curlin in a disqualification of stablemate Transparent and was fifth in the Travers at Saratoga last year, will take on six in a tough field for the Grade III Excelsior at Aqueduct today.
He’s coming off a disappointing 11th in the Grade I Donn Handicap after closing 2013 with a win in the Discovery at Aqueduct.
“We’ve always had high expectations for this horse,” trainer Tom Albertrani told NYRA.