NEW ORLEANS – Steve Asmussen became the third all-time leading trainer by wins when Skinny won the seventh race on Feb. 17 at Fair Grounds.
Skinny’s victory in a Louisiana-bred maiden special weight race gave Asmussen 6,367 for his career, pushing him one past King Leatherbury.
Leatherbury, who still is an active trainer on the Mid-Atlantic circuit, has since won two races, and through Friday stood at 6,368 wins, but since passing Leatherbury, Asmussen has amassed another 11 winners, for 6,378 entering Saturday’s action. Barring the unforeseen, Asmussen figures to continue to wide his advantage.
The comparative ages of the two men speaks to the frenetic pace at which Asmussen has churned out victories since hitting his stride as a trainer: Leatherbury turns 80 on March 26, while Asmussen is just 47. Asmussen’s pace of annual wins (and starters) slackened in 2012, when he won 285 races from 1,349 runners. At his peak, in 2009, Asmussen’s far-flung operation won 650 races from 2,944 starters. And consider that in the two-year period of 2008-2009 Asmussen won 1,271 races, which would make a solid career for many trainers.
Asmussen currently ranks fifth all time in purses earned, with more than $201 million, but said his historic number of winners means more.
“It’s extremely significant for me,” he said. “The money is always changing over time, but win for win, that means something.”
It should only be a matter of weeks before Asmussen moves past Jack Van Berg into the second spot in the all-time career win standings. Van Berg has notched 6,416 victories, and while still an active trainer, he has yet to win a race in 2013.
The top of the mountain remains at a distant remove: The late Dale Baird won 9,445 races during a long career. Asmussen, though, is on his way.
The top five trainers by wins
1. Dale Baird, 9,445
2. Jack Van Berg, 6,416
3. Steve Asmussen, 6,378
4. King Leatherbury, 6,368
5. Scott Lake, 5,295
Through Feb. 22, 2013