ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 9, 2010)—Santa Anita Park, which unveiled its new, all-natural dirt main track this past Monday, will include two-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Steve Asmussen among its lengthy list of top conditioners who have committed their stables to running at Santa Anita’s prestigious winter/spring meet, which begins Dec. 26.

Asmussen, who was America’s leading trainer by number of winners in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009, and who was America’s Eclipse Award winning conditioner in 2008 and 2009, is headquartered in Santa Anita’s Barn 27. He visited The Great Race Place on Thursday morning and oversaw, along with assistant Scott Blasi, a number of his runners go through their morning routines in idyllic, sunny weather conditions.

“We want to do a better job on the top-end of racing,” said Asmussen. “We felt that over the winter this would give our young horses their best opportunity to grow and develop and be all they can be.

“We plan on having 30 horses here this winter, hopefully, they’re the right 30. This is a beautiful place. I think that there’s a little excitement going with the raise in purses and (with) going back to dirt. This is a great place to be this time of the year.”

Asmussen noted that longtime clients Jess and Barbara Banke-Jackson, along with Ron Winchell, are among those owners for whom he will have horses at Santa Anita this winter.

“We think we’ve brought some nice horses…I think they have a lot of potential and if they continue to develop and go the right way, they could be any kind,” he said.

When asked what his impressions were of how his horses looked and trained on Thursday morning, Asmussen indicated he would take a deliberate approach in the days to come.

“We want to see how the horses made the trip out here, (and to) see how they’re doing and get used to the racetrack gradually. We’re very pleased with how the horses have settled in and how their weight looks. I think that we’ll pick up their gallops over the next few days and look at it on an individual basis.

“We’ll have a few horses that’ll probably work early next week and we’ll have some that we’ll let settle-in a little bit longer.”

Asmussen is best known as the trainer of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, who won the honor in 2007 and 2008, and of the recently retired filly, Rachel Alexandra, who was 2009’s Horse of the Year.

Asmussen is from a racing family that is based in Laredo, Texas. His father, Keith, and mother, Marilyn, operate the renowned El Primero Training Center in Laredo. Asmussen’s older brother Cash, was America’s Eclipse Award winning apprentice jockey in 1979 and he became a six-time leading rider in France, from 1985 through 1990. (He rode in Ireland in 1987).

First post time on Santa Anita’s opening day, Dec. 26, is 12 noon. For advance ticket and dining reservations, call (626) 574-RACE. For more information, visit www.santaanita.com.