By US Racing Team
ICYMI: News, notes and nuggets from the past week (June 8-12):
Jose Ortiz, Steve Asmussen reach victory milestones
It was a week to remember for a Hall of Fame trainer and a future Hall of Fame jockey.
First the trainer: Steve Asmussen became the leading trainer in Churchill Downs history after 4-year-old filly Drop Dead Gorgeous won Friday’s first race to give him victory No. 738 – surpassing Dale Romans.
Now the jockey: Jose Ortiz won the fourth race at Belmont Park on Thursday for career win No. 2,000. The 26-year-old Ortiz, in his ninth year riding, has produced 2,000 wins from 10,924 races.
Asmussen appreciates the accomplishment.
“If anyone knows American horse racing, they know what Churchill Downs means to the sport,” Asmussen said in a Churchill Downs press release. “This is a very significant honor. I know the people who have been in this spot before, and been here consistently, and for us to have won the most races is a very proud accomplishment.”
Romans was the record-holder since Nov. 12, 2017 when he surpassed Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who was Churchill’s leader for more than 31 years.
Asmussen, 54, won his first race at Churchill on May 16, 1993 with a 3-year-old gelding named Snake Eyes. He has 22 Churchill training titles dating back to the 2001 fall meet. Among his top horses are Curlin, Rachel Alexandra and Gun Runner, Midnight Bisou, Untapable and Mitole.
He is still looking for his first win in the Kentucky Derby. His biggest wins include the Preakness (Curlin, 2007; Rachel Alexandra, 2009), the Belmont Stakes (Creator, 2016); the Breeders’ Cup Classic twice (Curlin, 2007; Gun Runner, 2017); and the Dubai World Cup (Curlin, 2008).
Ortiz has earned more than $156 million in purses and has three wins in Breeders’ Cup races (Oscar Performance, 2016 Juvenile Turf; Good Magic, 2017 Juvenile; and Structor, 2019 Juvenile Turf).
In 2017, he won the Belmont Stakes aboard Tapwrit en route to an Eclipse Award as the nation’s top jockey. Ortiz’s older brother, Irad, won his 2,000th race in 2018 – also at the age of 26.
Gulfstream casino receives approval to open June 18
Gulfstream Park: The casino will reopen on June 18, the track announced on Thursday. It will be open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.
The reopening was approved by Broward County, the City of Hallandale Beach and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).
All guests, contractors, suppliers, vendors and employees will be required to follow protocols including thermal temperature screening, use of face coverings, and follow physical distancing markers and other protocols throughout the facility. Sanitizing stations have been installed throughout the facility.
Ballysax Stakes (Ire.) joins European road to Derby
The Group 3 race has been added to the European Road to the Kentucky Derby, a series of races that could produce a starter in race scheduled for Sept. 5.
Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), the national authority for thoroughbred racing in Ireland, transferred the Ballysax from Leopardstown to Dundalk Racecourse. The 1 5/16-mile race for 3-year-olds is scheduled for July 12 and run over an all-weather synthetic surface.
Derby qualifying points are 30-12-6-3 for the top four finishers.
Six races on the European road to the Derby have been run Four Triple Crown nominees have points in the series: Royal Dornoch (10), Choice of Mine (8), Shekhem (4) and New World Tapestry (4).
Sole Volante under consideration for Belmont or Blue Grass
Trained by Patrick Biancone, Sole Volante won Gulfsteam Park’s feature for 3-year-olds on Wednesday and his next start will be determined shortly.
The win could serve as a prep for the Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 20, or for the Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland on July 11.
The race also featured Sole Volante’s stablemate Ete Indien (Fountain of Youth winner), who finished fourth and is headed next to the Haskell Invitational (G1) on July 18. Shivaree, at one point a Belmont possible, ran third and is likely to run next in the Blue Grass.
Sole Volante, with Luca Panici aboard, covered the mile 1:34.75 and won for the fourth time in six career starts.
“In five weeks, we’ll go to the Haskell with Ete Indien. Concerning Sole Volante, my owner is very keen on running in the Belmont,’’ Biancone said in a Gulfstream Park press release. “We’ll have to wait for the horse to decide. We’ll see how he is the next few days. If he really comes up, we may go. If not, we’ll wait for the Blue Grass. One or the other.”