LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) John Asher, the longtime spokesman for the racetrack that’s home to the Kentucky Derby, has died. He was 62.
Churchill Downs said Asher died Monday after suffering a heart attack while on vacation with his family in Florida. Asher also had a long career as an award-winning radio journalist.
His death comes days before the storied track opens its September meet. Churchill will host the season-ending Breeders’ Cup World Championships in November.
Asher joined Churchill Downs in 1997 and had served as the track’s vice president of racing communications since 1999. Before that he worked at WHAS-AM and WAVE-AM in Louisville and won five Eclipse Awards for his radio reports on horse racing.
Asher was a native of Leitchfield, Kentucky. He is survived by his wife, Dee, and three daughters.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A total of 369 3-year-olds were made eligible to compete in this year’s Triple Crown series during the early nomination period.
Each of the horses was nominated through a $600 payment to compete in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont stakes. The Triple Crown opens May 6 with the Derby.
The number of nominated horses increased by 57 from last year’s total of 312. They include a record 37 horses based in Japan.
Among the notable horses is Forte, last year’s 2-year-old champion trained by Todd Pletcher.
Also among the predominantly male horses nominated was a filly named Hoosier Philly.
Brad Cox led all trainers with 38 horses nominated to the series. Pletcher was second with 36 horses, followed by Steve Asmussen and Ken McPeek with 13 each. Chad Brown and Hideyuki Mori had 12 each.
Others nominated include Arabian Knight, Cave Rock and Newgate, all trained by Bob Baffert. He is currently banned by Churchill Downs Inc. through this year’s Derby, although Baffert is challenging his two-year punishment in federal court.
For the Derby, horses under the care of any suspended trainer may be transferred to another trainer and become eligible to earn Derby qualifying points as long as the transfer is done by Feb. 28.
Last year, Baffert transferred two horses to another trainer and both ran in the Derby, although neither was highly placed.
Horses that were not nominated to the Triple Crown series by the early deadline of Jan. 28 can make a late payment of $6,000 through March 27 to become eligible.
ARCADIA, Calif. — Newgate won the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes by a neck, with Bob Baffert as the trainer of all four horses in the Kentucky Derby prep race at Santa Anita.
Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Newgate ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.11 and paid $4 and $2.60 as the even-money favorite. There was no show wagering because of the field size.
Hard to Figure returned $5.20 at 12-1 odds. Worcester was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third. Arabian Lion was fourth.
“So much improvement in all these horses,” Baffert said. “I was actually nervous before the race, worried that something weird might happen, but I can relax now.”
The Lewis was a Kentucky Derby prep race, but no points were awarded because Baffert has been banned for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The Hall of Fame trainer was in Louisville to testify in federal court as he seeks a temporary injunction to end the suspension, which runs through the end of the upcoming spring meet. It was meted out following a failed drug test by Medina Spirit after the colt finished first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.
Newgate earned his first graded stakes victory. The colt was second, beaten by a neck in the Sham Stakes last month in his previous start.
“Frankie Dettori has been teaching him how to just sit back, relax and come with a punch and that’s what he did today,” Baffert said.
The victory, worth $120,000, increased Newgate’s career earnings to $241,975, with two wins in six starts.