Asmussen Bringing a "Six Pack" to SHRP for Saturday's NTRA Great State Challenge

(December 4, 2002)- Trainer Steve Asmussen will clearly be one of the busiest people at Sam Houston Race Park during the NTRA Great State Challenge on Saturday (post time 1:00 p.m. CT). Asmussen will saddle ten horses on the card, including six in the Great State Challenge races. Of course, dealing in quantity is nothing new for the Laredo, Texas native. Asmussen is currently second in the nation with 370 training wins to his credit this year (trailing only fellow Great State Challenge participant Scott Lake who has 376). He is also fourth in the country in purse earnings among trainers with $9,628,373. Bobby Frankel leads with $17,371,228.

Asmussen will get the day off to a fast start with a pair of runners-Souris (Ky.) and Hannah’s Royalrock (Tex.)-in the NTRA Great State Challenge Juvenile Fillies. Souris, a graded stakes placed filly, is the 7-5 morning line favorite, but Asmussen gives Hannah’s Royalrock a big shot as well. “She’s the only one entered with a race and a win over the track,” he said. “That’s a huge plus.”

In the Great State Challenge Juvenile, Asmussen will saddle Posse (Ky.), winner of the Grade III Kentucky Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs. Posse’s last effort, however, was an eighth-place finish in the Grade III Iroquois on Nov. 3, also at Churchill Downs. “His last race was very disappointing, but we think he’s back on his game now.”

With no starters in either the Sprint or the Distaff, Asmussen will have approximately an hour to grab some lunch or socialize with clients, perhaps. But then it’s back to business in the Great State Challenge Turf with Texas-bred Desert Darby. “I can’t speak for the others entered in the race, but he’ll do well,” said Asmussen of Desert Darby, who is a 30-1 longshot in the morning line odds for the race.

Asmussen will then attempt to finish up strong in the Challenge. He accounts for two of the Great State Challenge Classic’s six starters with Kentucky breds Easyfromthegitgo and Big Numbers. On paper, it appears that the Patrick Byrne trained Pass Rush (Indiana) may be able to steal away to an easy early lead in the 1 1/8 miles race-a possibility not lost on Asmussen. “We’re aware of the situation, and we know that if the first quarter of the race goes in :25, it would not be good.”

Regardless of the outcome of his busy day, Asmussen thinks the NTRA Great State Challenge will be an extremely exciting day for all involved. “This is what racing is all about: horses from all around the country competing at a high level for a lot of money.”

Asmussen Directing Traffic

Steve Asmussen clarified his Saturday plans for a handful of horses that were cross entered in multiple races. First, he confirmed that Big Numbers would, indeed, run in Saturday’s $275,000 Classic and not a Friday night allowance event at Sam Houston for which Big Numbers had also been entered.

In the final two races on Saturday’s Sam Houston card, the $30,000 San Felipe Stakes for fillies and mares three and up and the $30,000 Cy-Fair Stakes for three year old fillies, Asmussen had entered a total of four horses, three of whom were slotted into both races. Today, Asmussen announced that Goodness and McKinney would run in the San Felipe, while Keepthename and Cielo Girl would represent the stable in the Cy-Fair.

Friday Morning Doings

With morning temperatures remaining in the unseasonably cold 30's, California-based runners joined their peers from elsewhere around the country on the track after arriving in the Lone Star State yesterday. Among the more prominent horses exercising this morning was Day Trader (Sprint - Kentucky), who galloped easily and walked off the track relaxed but with his neck bowed. Take Charge Lady (Distaff - Kentucky) was on the track at about 7:30 a.m. and galloped a mile and a quarter. After jogging on Wednesday and Thursday, Forbidden Apple (Turf - Florida) galloped just after the morning renovation ,break. With his tongue lolling out the left side of his mouth, as is his custom, the Great State Challenge Turf favorite galloped with his neck arched and chin almost touching his chest as if to indicate that he was keen to be turned loose. Mystic Lady (Distaff - Kentucky), Crackup (Juvenile - California) and Supah Blitz (Juvenile - Florida) all put in easy gallops a short time later. Trainer James Picou had Whata Brainstorm (Turf - Florida) escorted by pony to the paddock and then to the Connally turf course where he galloped a mile over the Bermuda-Ryegrass mix. After the track closed at 10:00 a.m., Forbidden Apple joined a "parade" up the walk path to the paddock. Also visiting the paddock after training hours were Day Trader, Graceful Cat (Distaff - Washington), Quiet Ruler (Turf - New York), Youcan'ttakeme (Juvenile Fillies - Washington) and nine others.

Steaks Results

Mike Compton of Houston was the winner over nine rivals at Sam Houston Race Park on Thursday night in the first-ever Great Steak Challenge. The competition required the consumption of a 73-ounce sirloin, salad, a extra large baked potato and, for good measure, a slab of cheesecake. Compton stopped the teletimer in just over 90 minutes to garner the victory. His prize for winning the event? A side of beef.

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