What a difference a week made for trainer Steve Asmussen. He went from being a likely inductee into Racing’s Hall of Fame in Saratoga, N.Y., to being ostracized as the poster boy for what is wrong in the sport.
This came after a nine-minute video was released by PETA showing alleged wrongdoing and animal abuse in the Asmussen barn. The video was heavily edited from four months of secret taping by an undercover person, hired by PETA, who infiltrated the Asmussen barn as a hotwalker.
PETA has come after horse racing before. Following the death of Barbaro, who was injured in the 2006 Preakness, Larry King of CNN had on two guests, Lisa Lange, a spokesperson for PETA and Jack Hanna, a renowned animal preservationist with the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo.
Lange called for “an end to the horse racing industry.” Hanna answered, “To stop horse racing would be ludicrous.”
Two years later came the death of Eight Belles, who had just run second in the 2008 Kentucky Derby. Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA, in a press release called “Attending the Kentucky Derby is as despicable as attending a dogfight.”
We can question the motives of PETA all we want. But as long as racing allows itself to be a pinata for them, we are just asking for it.
The PETA video takes an inch of truth and stretches it a mile. The fact remains there is an inch of truth.
Asmussen assistant Scott Blasi is the star of the tape, and not in a good way. Blasi comes across as a vulgar lout, spewing curse words rapid fire and hinting of illegal activities.
Blasi, who had worked for Asmussen for 18 years, was just released from his duties.
Horse racing will survive this scandal, as it has many others. What typically happens is a flurry of reactions, and then a return to inertia. But hopefully this time will be different. The video is jarring. If you have a phobia about needles, it’s especially jarring.
Many things need to happen within the industry, which has never had a singular united voice. One goal, among many, that I would like to see is more transparency.
Cockroaches hate light. Thus, the more the industry shines a light on every corner of the business, the easier it will be to root out the bad guys.
■ KENTUCKY DERBY PREPS — The Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park and the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds will both be run Saturday. If Cairo Prince can win the Florida Derby, he would stamp himself as a solid favorite for the Kentucky Derby.
However, Cairo Prince has not run in nine weeks. So he has a built in excuse should he run short and get upset.
The Louisiana Derby is a much more wide-open affair. Intense Holiday won the prep, the Risen Star, by a nose over Albano. However, I thought the third-place finisher Vicar’s in Trouble took all the worst of it from post 13. If he can carve out a better trip, he is capable of running back to the big winning race that he ran in the LeComte.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @richeng4propick on Twitter.