After winning a record 622 races in 2008, which helped bring him his first Eclipse Award as champion trainer, Steve Asmussen said he doubted he could reach that mark again in 2009, being as he was going to trend a bit more toward quality over quantity.
The quality certainly was there: witness the amazing campaign Rachel Alexandra had with Asmussen, including three wins - the Preakness, Haskell, and Woodward - against males.
But he didn't lack for quantity, either, and his season earned him a second Eclipse Award as top trainer. Asmussen was in action everywhere yet again, and the wins piled up by the bucketful. He sailed past the 622 mark on Dec. 6, and finished the year with a single-season record 650 wins, marking the third time in the last six years that Asmussen has set a record.
The first time came in 2004, when Asmussen won a mere 555 races. That obliterated the previous mark of 496, set by Hall of Famer Jack Van Berg in 1976.
Asmussen, 44, trains more horses than anyone in North America, and has them at outposts throughout the United States and at Woodbine in Canada. He started horses at 37 tracks in 2009. They range from the likes of Rachel Alexandra, a top contender tonight for Horse of the Year, to maiden claimers at Evangeline Downs. He has won nearly 5,200 races, fifth all-time.
"It's just been very rewarding to have such an amazing run," Asmussen said after he set the latest record. "It doesn't feel like proving anything - it's just fun to win."