Asmussen, Peace Rules, Rachel Alexandra Elected to Fair Grounds Hall of Fame
Three new members have been elected to the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame: Steve Asmussen, a nine-time leading trainer at Fair Grounds; Peace Rules, the 2003 Louisiana Derby and 2004 New Orleans Handicap winner; and Rachel Alexandra, the dominant 2009 Fair Grounds Oaks winner. The first Fair Grounds Hall of Fame class since 2005 will be inducted March 24, the Thursday prior to the $1 million Louisiana Derby, at a ceremony in the Fair Grounds Clubhouse.
Asmussen is the second-leading trainer all-time at Fair Grounds (behind Jack Van Berg) with more than 750 wins in 16 seasons, representing about 13% of the trainer’s more than 5,700 overall career wins (fifth all-time). He is on pace to win his 10th Fair Grounds training title this season, which would tie him with Van Berg for most ever. His major Fair Grounds stakes triumphs include two Louisiana Derby wins (Fifty Stars in 2001 and Pyro in 2008) and two Fair Grounds Oaks wins (Lady Tak in 2003 and Summerly in 2005). In 2009, Asmussen broke his own record for wins in a calendar year with 650. His charges won three consecutive Horse of the Year Awards – Curlin in 2007 and 2008 and Rachel Alexandra in 2009. He won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer in 2008 and 2009, was the top U.S. trainer by wins in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, and by earnings in 2008 and 2009.
Peace Rules – bred by Newchance Farm, owned by Edmund A. Gann, trained primarily by Bobby Frankel – was two-for-two at Fair Grounds, winning the 2003 Louisiana Derby over eventual Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide and returning the following season to win the 2004 New Orleans Handicap in one of its deepest renewals ever. Overall Peace Rules won nine of 19 career starts – including Grade I wins in the 2003 Blue Grass Stakes, the 2003 Haskell Invitational and the 2004 Suburban Handicap – and earned over $3 million.
Rachel Alexandra – bred by Dolphus C. Morrison, owned initially by Morrison (through Kentucky Oaks) then by Stonestreet Stables & Harold McCormick, trained initially by Hal Wiggins (through Kentucky Oaks) then by Steve Asmussen – won the 2009 Fair Grounds Oaks impressively by 1 ¾ lengths while being geared down by regular jockey Calvin Borel. She mounted a historic Horse of the Year campaign that season, winning all eight of her races including the Preakness Stakes, becoming the first filly to win the race since 1924, and the Woodward against older males. Following her award-winning 2009, Rachel Alexandra made her 2010 debut at Fair Grounds (the first reigning Horse of the Year to start in New Orleans since Whirlaway in 1942) and finished second in the New Orleans Ladies in front of a record crowd. Following her retirement, Fair Grounds renamed the Grade III Silverbulletday Stakes, the final prep for the Fair Grounds Oaks, in her honor.
The Fair Grounds Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be held March 24, 6-8 p.m., in the Fair Grounds Clubhouse (fourth floor). The evening includes a buffet dinner featuring items from the Clubhouse Dining menu and a cash bar. Admission is $25 in advance or at the door (cash only at the door). To purchase tickets in advance, contact the Fair Grounds Group Sales department at 504-948-1285.
The 2011 class of the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame was elected by a vote of the 12-member Fair Grounds Hall of Fame Committee, comprised of Jason Boulet, racing secretary; Mike Diliberto, head clocker and morning line oddsmaker; Tom Early, Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association; Peter Finney, The Times-Picayune; Bob Fortus, The Times-Picayune; Eric Halstrom, vice president and general manager; Bryan Krantz, former Fair Grounds owner; Angus Lind, WVUE Fox-8; Jim Mulvihill, communications and pari-mutuel marketing manager; Ramon Muniz, paddock judge; Gary Palmisano, clocker; and Sandra Salmen, horsemen’s relations.