This Saturday Lone Star Park's all-time top trainer Steve Asmussen will run two horses in the Kentucky Derby—Private Vow and Storm Treasure—and hope to erase a pretty dreadful record in classic competition. Asmussen, who's based in Texas, topped the U.S. trainer standings last year in wins and is ranked No. 2 today with $4.7 million in earnings and 154 wins, but he seems to fall short in the big races. Will this Derby be his big break? Probably not.
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First, the Derby has the maximum 20 runners this year, and neither of Asmussen's horses drew a favorable post position (the 12 hole for Private Vow; 19--yuck--for Storm Treasure). Derbies with a lot of runners can be notoriously bumpy affairs, though last year's edition had 20 and was run clean. Even with prime positioning, though, Asmussen's runners would be longshots. Then there's the rap that Asmussen doesn't develop top-flight runners—he's about quantity, not quality. Not sure to what extent that's true; jury's still out. But I've watched horses of his perform disastrously in top-tier competition (Quintons Gold Rush, dead last in the 2004 Derby; Private Vow, last in the 2005 Breeders' Cup Juvenile—though he had a good excuse because one of his reins broke, and that's impossible to overcome). My pick? If there's a fast track Saturday, I like speed-crazy Sinister Minister. Right now, he's well-priced at 12-1. —Julie Lyons