Citing unresolved investigations in New York and Kentucky of Steve Asmussen following a video last year from an animal rights group alleging horse abuse and other violations, the trainer will not be allowed to be considered in 2015 for the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame.
In an email sent out Tuesday, Jan. 6, to voters who participate in the Hall of Fame election process, panel members who were asked to nominate up to four candidates for consideration by the nominating committee were told that Asmussen would not be considered in 2015.
Last year Asmussen was nominated to the final ballot for consideration but after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals posted a video it alleged documented wrongdoing in Asmussen stables in New York and Kentucky, he was removed from the ballot and consideration for 2014.
Regulators in those two states have yet to publicly take action.
"Concerning trainer Steve Asmussen: Since the process leading to the 2015 election is beginning before either of the state racing commissions' investigations in Kentucky and New York into Asmussen have been concluded, the tabling of Asmussen's candidacy remains in effect for the 2015 election," said the Jan. 6 email to the voting panel that will suggest possible nominees.
In general, trainers who have been licensed in North America for 25 years can be considered. While Asmussen meets that standard, the Racing Hall of Fame decided to allow more time for the Asmussen cases to play out at the regulatory level before he is considered.
"The executive committee of the museum made a decision that in the best interests of the institution it was worth holding off on the candidacy of Steve Asmussen," said Brien Bouyea, communications officer for the Hall of Fame. "When you have investigations into animal cruelty and drug abuses, it just didn't seem appropriate for the museum to consider honoring him.
"With the investigations still not concluded and us starting this process again, we felt it wouldn't be appropriate."
Bouyea noted that the process of determining the 2015 Hall of Fame class has to be started and the executive committee didn't want the option for adding Asmussen late if he is not sanctioned for wrongdoing by either regulator. The decision was made to not consider the trainer for this year.
"We didn't think it would be appropriate to allow a candidate or disallow a candidate at some point during the process," Bouyea said. "We're not trying to dictate policy or say one guy should be in or not, but with something this significant hanging over the candidacy, it was just decided in the best interests of the museum to hold off on his candidacy.
"If he's cleared and is in good standing with all of these racing jurisdictions, we're certainly not looking to prevent anybody from going forward. But with these investigations having not being concluded, we just viewed it as the appropriate way to handle it this year."
On the track, Asmussen would have a strong candidacy. Twice honored with Eclipse Awards as outstanding trainer, Asmussen trained 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra for the second half of that season and conditioned two-time Horse of the Year Curlin . He ranks second all-time in wins with 6,930 (through Jan. 5) and ranks fifth in purse earnings with more than $224.5 million. Blood-Horse could not immediately reach Asmussen for this story.