Epicenter may give Steve Asmussen his best shot at winning the roses

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen is still chasing his first Kentucky Derby win
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen is still chasing his first Kentucky Derby win(WAVE 3 News)
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 8:57 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The signs are all over the barn. Over 9,000 times a horse trained by Steve Asmussen has made a trip to the Winner’s Circle, but he has never had one earn it’s way to the Kentucky Derby Winner’s Circle, and like all great coaches, he remembers the losses.

“Yeah, we’re 0-for-23 in the Derby,” Asmussen recites.

He is one of 10 trainers who have trained more than 11 Kentucky Derby starters. The other nine have all won more than one Derby. Todd Pletcher won with his 25th starter, Super Saver in 2010.

“Yeah it’s a big hole, he wants to fill it, we’ve come here eight times together,” Epicenter owner Ron Winchell said. “He’s come here a bunch of other times. He’s won pretty much every other race, you know I think I’ve won a fair amount of races as well, so it’s like, this is the one that you definitely want to win. If you’re in the business this is it.”

Asmussen is the all-time leading trainer in North America and at Churchill Downs.

Of those 23 Derby starters, two have finished second, and both looked like winners when they turned for home.

“So I literally know what it feels like to think you’re gonna win the Derby, but it didn’t happen,” Asmussen recalls.

That’s not counting the two all-timer’s he started on the First Saturday in May. Gun Runner finished third in 2016 and Curlin third in 2007.

“Curlin, I just never dreamed he could get beat,” Asmussen said. “I mean Curlin gave you so much confidence, I never dreamed he’d lose.”

He did. Street Sense won the 2007 Kentucky Derby before finishing a nose behind Curlin in the Preakness Stakes two weeks later.

“It felt like the walk over for Curlin’s Derby took three strides, and the walk back felt like the Sahara Desert,” Asmussen remembers.

Even after all the disappointment, he’s is back.

“Yeah, I’m good at gettin here,” he joked.

He’s also grateful for another opportunity.

“I’m a horse trainer, you know, we’re not smart enough to give up, we’re gonna keep at it.”

This time, he’ll lead over a horse in Epicenter that he thinks might be his best shot yet.

“You can’t stand here and compare him to Curlin and Gun Runner yet, how they finished their career made them who they were, but he is running faster right now than they were when they got here,” he said.

Maybe he’ll be fast enough to add another sign to the barn.

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