by Ed Meyer

posted on December 24, 2008 in News | No Comments >>

When Steve Asmussen won his 556th race of 2008 on Nov. 23rd, to break his own record for North American training wins in a year, he was asked about reaching the 600-win mark.  His response? “Five-ninety…maybe.”

So much for predictions.  Last Thursday night at Delta Downs, Asmussen became the first North American conditioner to win 600 Thoroughbred races in a single year, after saddling three winners at Fair Grounds earlier in the afternoon.

It didn’t take long to add to his total on Friday, as Asmussen won the opener at Fair Grounds with Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Tactical, then captured the sixth with another for Winchell, Talon.

Asmussen said the run to 600 began with a pair of stakes wins on the Delta Jackpot undercard Dec. 5th at Delta Downs. “We had a three-day span where we won 16 races,” he said.  “We made a huge run.”

Asmussen entered Thursday four wins shy of 600, but quickly cut the countdown in half with impressive performances by a pair of 2-year-olds – Heiligbrodt Racing Stable’s filly East Breaks and Bob Zollars and Mark Wagner’s colt Uno Mas.

In a two-turn maiden race, East Breaks, sent off as the odds-on favorite in a field of nine juvenile fillies, drew off to win by eight lengths.

“She’s a nice filly,” Asmussen said.  “I thought she looked a lot better going long, and that’s a good thing.”

A half-hour later, Uno Mas overtook the highly touted Freisan Fire to win a first-level allowance race.  The son of Macho Uno had broken his maiden at Fair Grounds on opening weekend.

In Thursday’s eighth race, Asmussen moved within one of the milestone when Coastal Racing’s Stungbythestorm registered a 2 1/2-length score. About four hours later, Storm Trust captured the fifth race at Delta Downs for No. 600.

So now it’s on to 610, or 620, or some other number that may become untouchable.

“It’ll hang on the wall real pretty and we’ll just stare at it,” he said.

Eclipse Award-winning jockey Rosemary Homesister Jr., earned her 2,000 North American victory last Thursday, when Rustyshouldrun posted a 1 1/4-length win in the seventh race at Tampa Bay Downs, Fl.

“It felt like it took forever to get that last win,” Homeister said to the Thoroughbred Times. “I can’t even explain the feeling – it’s like winning your first race.”

n 1992, Homeister became the first woman to win an Eclipse Award as North America’s outstanding apprentice jockey.  She retired from race riding in November 2004 to become a real estate agent, but returned in June 2006.

Homeister has made 14,996 starts and her mounts have earned $34,527,601 through Monday. She has posted 80 of her wins in stakes races, including seven graded stakes victories, and considers riding Supah Blitz to an unplaced finish in the 2003 Kentucky Derby (GI) to be a career highlight.

A Hollywood, Florida, native, Homeister earned her most lucrative victories in a pair of $300,000 races, the 1999 Princess Rooney Handicap (G3) at Calder Race Course aboard Princess Pietrina, and the 2008 Robert G. Dick Memorial Handicap (G3) at Delaware Park aboard Palmilla.

Homeister led all riders in victories as an apprentice at Calder’s Tropical meeting in 1992-93, and also topped the jockey standings in 2001 at the now-shuttered Hialeah Park. She became the first female jockey to win the Clasico Interactional del Caribe in 2001, when she guided Alexia (Pan) to victory at the former El Comandante Race Track – now known as Hipodromo Camarero, in Puerto Rico.