Asmussen: PETA Allegations 'Completely False'

Asmussen: PETA Allegations 'Completely False'

"It's misleading, untrue, and completely false," Asmussen said. "If you read the complaint there's not one actual rule violation. The most bothersome thing about this is for anybody to think I'm not a good caregiver (to horses)."

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Thoroughbred trainer Steve Asmussen told NBC Sports Network in a segment aired May 2 that allegations made against him by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are untrue, and he hopes to have the chance to defend himself in court.

Asmussen, who won the Longines Kentucky Oaks on Friday (May 2) at Churchill Downs with Winchell Thoroughbreds' Untapable shortly after the interview aired, was queried by Bob Costas. It was the first time the two-time Eclipse Award winner discussed the situation at length with the media.

A woman posing as a stable worker gained access to Asmussen's barns at Churchill, located in Louisville, Kentucky, and Saratoga Race Course, in Saratoga Springs, New York, last year and secretly videotaped activities. In late March, PETA released a 9 1/2-minute video to the New York Times, which subsequently wrote a story about the group's allegations and its legal complaint.

Costas asked Asmussen about the allegation of horse abuse.

"It's misleading, untrue, and completely false," Asmussen said. "If you read the complaint there's not one actual rule violation. The most bothersome thing about this is for anybody to think I'm not a good caregiver (to horses)."

Asmussen told Costas a comment by Jockey Club chairman Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps suggesting he should stay away from Churchill for the Oaks and Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, in which he saddled Winchell Thoroughbreds' Tapiture to a 15th place finish, was "very disappointing. I wish he would read over the actual allegations."

Asmussen said assistant trainer Scott Blasi, who was the focus of the PETA video, was relieved of his position because his comments on the video were "extremely disrespectful to an owner of ours," a reference to Zayat Stables, which subsequently removed its horses from Asmussen's barn.

When asked by Costas about defending himself against the complaint, Asmussen said, "Hopefully I do get a chance (to go to court)—and not just to defend myself." The trainer then said PETA's activities have opened the organization up to counter charges.

PETA turned over its evidence to regulators in New York and Kentucky, where investigations continue.

Originally published on BloodHorse.com.

About the Author

Tom LaMarra

Tom LaMarra, a native of New Jersey and graduate of Rutgers University, has been news editor at The Blood-Horse since 1998. After graduation he worked at newspapers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as an editor and reporter with a focus on municipal government and politics. He also worked at Daily Racing Form and Thoroughbred Times before joining The Blood-Horse. LaMarra, who has lived in Lexington since 1994, has won various writing awards and was recognized with the Old Hilltop Award for outstanding coverage of the horse racing industry. He likes to spend some of his spare time handicapping races.

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