Top race trainer Asmussen investigated in abuse of horses

Fri Mar 21, 2014 2:53pm EDT
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By T. G. Branfalt Jr.

ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - Racing Hall of Fame nominated trainer Steve Asmussen, a two-time Eclipse Award winner whose stable has included Breeders' Cup Classic champion Curlin and Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra, is under investigation for allegedly abusing horses.

Asmussen's nomination to the Hall of Fame was put on hold on Friday while two state racing commissions conduct an investigation after a video surfaced appearing to show horses being drugged.

The National Museum of Racing announced it was in its "best interests" to table its nomination of Asmussen, known as one of the top trainers of race horses in the United States.

Asmussen is the target of probes by the New York State Racing Commission and Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Communications, both organizations confirmed.

His attorney, Clark Brewster, was not immediately available for comment.

The investigations were begun after a video was posted by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that appears to show Asmussen's top assistant, Scott Blasi, and other staff members injecting horses with various performance enhancing and pain-masking drugs.

In the video, posted on PETA's website, the assistant can be heard saying one horse, Nehro, "doesn't have any foot at all" in an apparent reference to the repeated application of Z-bar horseshoes on already damaged hooves.

Kathy Guillermo, senior vice-president of PETA, said the organization had known "for several years" about abuses in horse racing but that a 2012 New York Times article led the group to start an investigation into a "top training stable."   Continued...

Trainer Steve Asmussen (C) talks about his horses, Kentucky Derby hopefuls Daddy Nose Best and Sabercat, after early morning workout at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky,April 30, 2012. REUTERS/John Sommers II