The barn of National Racing Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen is approaching a record some thought would not be equaled at Remington Park.
Asmussen sits No. 2 in the national trainer standings in money earned for his horses in 2018 ($25,579,110), and is only one day away from winning his 14th training title at this Oklahoma City track. That would extend his record number of titles here, ahead of 12 by Oklahoma Horse Racing Hall of Famer and the track's all-time winningest trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel.
But the record that everyone thought might stand, and still possibly could, is Asmussen's 102 wins in one meet here in 2009. He won three more races Saturday night to give him 100 for the meet with only one day of racing remaining – the huge closing day that includes the $400,000 Springboard Mile. The Springboard could propel a horse onto the Kentucky Derby trail for 2019. The top four finishers in the Springboard are awarded 10-4-2-1 points in descending order in a race that is part of the Run to the Roses on the first Saturday in May. This is also the final race of 2018 nationally that awards such points. First post for Sunday's 12-race card that includes six stakes races is 3 p.m.
“It kind of sneaked up on us this year,” said Asmussen assistant trainer Darren Fleming. “We heard someone say we were getting close and it was really surprising. It's not something we were shooting for, but it would be nice if we got there.
“The key to our success? From Pablo (Ocampo) on down to everyone who works in our barn, that's a lot of good people doing things that help us win.”
Asmussen would have to win three on Sunday to break the old mark. His chances seem very likely as he has 18 horses running in the 12 races, five in the Springboard Mile. The last time Asmussen brought jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr., in to ride, the pair hooked up for five victories on Oklahoma Derby Day, Sept. 30. Santana is back again Sunday. Asmussen has entered a horse in the second race, two in the third, one in each the fourth and fifth, two in the sixth, two in the ninth, three in the 10th, five in the 11th and one in the 12th. He has the morning line favorite in the second, the top two favorites in the third, the favorite in the fourth, the favorite in the ninth, the favorite in the 10th, the second favorite in the Springboard 11th, and the favorite in the 12th.
Asmussen is one of two top-5 trainers in the country that has a slew of horses entered for closing day. The other is Brad Cox, currently fifth in the nation in money earned ($14,813,306).
Cox has had a banner year with the top 3-year-old filly Monomoy Girl surely clinching the championship among her genre by winning the Breeders' Cup Distaff and garnering points in overall Horse of the Year voting. Any other year she would have been competitive in that category, but Justify won the Triple Crown.
Cox's Springboard Mile contender is Marquee Prince, a 2-year-old colt by Cairo Prince, out of the Include mare Try to Remember. She is owned by Rick, Donna and Jeff Awtrey of Sacramento, Calif. He was bred in Kentucky by Brereton C. Jones. He is a winner of two career races, tied with the most in the field with seven others. Marquee Prince travels to Oklahoma City from his winter base at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. It will be the second time Cox has entered a horse in the Springboard.
Jockey Florent Geroux has shipped in to ride Marquee Prince. The colt's record now stands at four starts, two wins, no seconds or thirds for earnings of $56,623. His most recent race was a fifth-place finish in the $100,000 Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs. The thing one has to consider, however, in that fifth-place finish is that he was running behind Los Alamitos Futurity winner Improbable, who currently is listed in most future books as the second favorite in the 2019 Kentucky Derby odds, behind only Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Game Winner.
“The Street Sense was just a race where we were obviously at Churchill and he was doing well,” Cox said. “I took a shot there, he ran respectable and we're exicted about getting him back around two turns.
“The Springboard Mile is a 2-year-old race, two turns, and has a really nice purse. That's the biggest factor.”
Marquee Prince is a 10-1 outsider in the morning line odds.
The Springboard Mile card will include a mandatory payout of the Sooner 6ix pool. One unique ticket hit for the entire pool Saturday, paying $10,512.88, so there will be no carryover Sunday. Whatever is bet into the pool Sunday, minus breakage, will be paid out to those with the best tickets on Sunday in the wager. It will be races 7-12 to conclude the season. There also will be a mandatory $100,000 pool guaranteed in the Pick 4, which will be races 9-12.
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