A Local Horse Trainer’s Shady Past

The darker side of Steve Asmussen, the Arlington horse trainer who won this year’s Preakness.

Before this spring, few outside the dedicated readership of the Daily Racing Form had heard of Arlington-based horse trainer Steve Asmussen. Then in May, his horse Curlin won the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in the Triple Crown, and suddenly Asmussen became a household name (at least in households where the Triple Crown is discussed). But Asmussen has a long track record of success. In 2004 his horses won 555 races, a North American record. He was also the winningest trainer in 2005. He estimates he has won more than 3,600 races in his career.

How he does it—that’s the question. In a glowing, lengthy profile of Asmussen that ran in the Dallas Morning News on May 5, there appeared a mention—almost an aside, deep into the article—about Asmussen’s having served two recent concurrent six-month suspensions for doping. The News quickly dismissed the suspensions by saying they came from “tiny tracks in Louisiana and New Mexico” and that “Asmussen had been nowhere near either track when the horses tested positive.” But Asmussen’s violations don’t appear to be aberrations. A month after the News story, the Washington Post counted all of Asmussen’s drug violations. All told, he has been cited 22 times.

“Every state has its own set of rules,” says Asmussen, who was also the subject of a recent cover story in the Dallas Observer. “I don’t have any rulings or appeals right now.”

To his list of wins, he can add that distinction.


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