SILVER MEDALLION’S LOGAN VICTORY PROVIDES ASMUSSEN WITH HIS FIRST WIN AT SANTA ANITA

ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 31, 2010) – With 504 training victories entering the year’s final day and no other trainer nationally within 200 wins of him, Steve Asmussen expanded his wealth on New Year’s Eve: He won a race at Santa Anita.

Saddled by Asmussen assistant Scott Blasi, 6-1 shot Silver Medallion captured the $79,950 Eddie Logan Stakes for 2-year-olds by one-half length over Ten Devils, part of trainer Richard Mandella’s 4-5 favored entry, to officially commemorate the arrival of the far-flung Asmussen operation in Southern California.

The winner of the Eclipse Award for trainers the past two years, Asmussen had raced only two horses at Santa Anita prior to the season that began last Sunday. But with the lure of an all new natural dirt main track and a higher overnight purse structure, he dispatched some 30 horses to Santa Anita.

“We’ve got a lot of good horses beaten here, so any win right now feels good,” Blasi said in the winner’s circle. “This is a nice colt (owner) Mike Ryan sent us for a winter run on the grass. He’s trained well, and he ran like we thought he would.”

With Garrett Gomez in the saddle, Silver Medallion became Asmussen’s first local winner while racing one mile on turf in 1:35.67 to prove best in the race named for Santa Anita’s memorable shoeshine attendant, the self-proclaimed “Footman,” who died at age 98 in 2009 after plying his trade at the track since its inception, on Dec. 25, 1934.

Silver Medallion took command entering the stretch to register his first stakes victory and only win since breaking his maiden by a nose four races previously at Saratoga in his racing debut. “He had his running shoes on today,” commented Gomez.

Ten Devils, who was coupled with tiring pacesetter Robie the Cat, gained the place by one-half length over Moment of Weakness in the field of eight juveniles.

The winner returned $12.60, $4.80 and $3.20. Ten Devils, ridden by Joe Talamo, paid $2.60 and $2.10. The show price on Moment of Weakness, with Joel Rosario aboard, was $2.40.

“He’s a little goofy,” Gomez said of the winner. “He’s a difficult horse, and Scotty’s (Blasi) been working with him. Mentally, he’s just not there yet, but it’s nice to know that a horse is this talented and he’s not totally focused yet. Once he figures it out, hopefully he’ll turn into a really nice horse.”

Silver Medallion’s earnings of $47,970 elevated his total to $92,904. The Kentucky-bred son of Badge of Silver was purchased by Ryan as a yearling for $150,000.

The earlier sister stakes race to the Eddie Logan, the $80,300 Blue Norther for 2-year-old fillies at one mile on turf, attracted a field of six, but developed into a two-horse battle throughout.

Tales in Excess, the 9-10 favorite, got her nose down on the wire to nudge 5-2 second choice Wave of Applause after the pair had the race to themselves from the outset. The final time was 1:36.23.

Making her first start around two turns and her first on turf after finishing third to divisional leader Turbulent Descent in Hollywood Park’s Moccasin Stakes on Nov. 21, Tales in Excess broke on top, but quickly ceded the lead to Wave of Applause.

With Mike Smith at the controls and wearing a different bridle that trainer Jim Cassidy thought would help to keep his filly in check, Wave of Applause proceeded to set the pace with the favorite at her flank.

The latter pulled alongside with Rosario aboard in the stretch, but Wave of Applause fought back. The two dueled stride for stride before Tales in Excess prevailed in the final jump.

“This filly is very honest,” Rosario said of the winner. “I hit her a couple of times just inside the sixteenth, but she didn’t really respond, so I stayed with my hands the rest of the way. I knew it was close, but I thought that I had won.”

Winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer credited Rosario. “She (Tales in Excess) had to work hard,” he said, “but I think what made the difference was Joel deciding to take back early and not get caught in a speed duel. She was game, and Joel’s a strong finisher. It’s a good way to end the year.”

With the partnership of Rick Awtrey and Dutton Stables banking the winning purse of $48,180, Tales in Excess wound up her juvenile year with earnings of $109,800 from a record of 2-2-1 in five starts. She paid $3.80 in winning the Blue Norther.

Wave of Applause finished 1 ½ lengths ahead of third-place Recipient, the longest shot in the field at 27-1 with Brice Blanc in the irons.

Multiple Grade I stakes winner Harmonious is the 3-5 morning line favorite in Saturday’s 42nd running of the Robert J. Frankel Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Formerly the San Gorgonio Handicap, the stakes race was recently renamed in memory of Santa Anita’s winningest trainer, who died in November of 2009 at the age of 68. Frankel trained the winners of 917 races at Santa Anita. The race that honors him is carded as the third on a nine-race program that begins at 12:30 p.m.

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