The Kentucky Derby is the one huge race that Steve Asmussen is yet to make his mark in. The American trainer has previously landed victories in the Preakness Stakes with Curlin in 2007 and Rachel Alexandra in 2009, but the Triple Crown victories have dried up since then.
There was a growing feeling that last year may have been his chance to end that long wait, but his star three-year-old Epicenter was narrowly beaten to the line by Rich Strike.
This year, he will be looking to avenge that defeat, and he could have an interesting contender in the 2023 Kentucky Derby odds by TwinSpires through Private Creed.
Planned Move To Dirt
Private Creed has raced exclusively on the turf to this point, but there have been strong glimpses that he could perform well if tested on the dirt. That certainly appears to be the plan going forward, as Asmussen teased that a run on the dirt will be coming next for the three-year-old. The trainer made the comments after Private Creed was narrowly beaten to the line in the Texas Turf Mile Stakes at Houston, a run that scored him a speed figure of 93.
There is certainly evidence to suggest that a switch to dirt could bring out the best in this runner, as he is out of the Sky Mesa mare South Andros. South Andros claimed two victories over two turns on the dirt, which included success in the Justakiss Stakes in June 2014 over 1 1/16 miles.
Performances On The Turf
There are certainly reasons for optimism ahead of a debut on the dirt, as Private Creed showed plenty of ability on the turf throughout last year. His standout run likely came in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, where he was a closing finisher to take third behind Mischief Magic and Dramatised. Private Creed also landed the Indian Summer Stakes at Keeneland over 5 ½ furlongs, reaching a speed figure of 99.
The three-year-old was also an impressive winner on debut over the same distance, reaching a joint-career best speed rating of 100. However, he was beaten in the Skidmore Stakes on his following start by Oxymore, before returning to action to capture success with a career-low speed rating of 92 in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Sprint Stakes over 6 ½ furlongs.
Asmussen’s Leading Derby Contenders
Asmussen’s most likely Derby contender remains the very expensive Extra Anejo. The Into Mischief colt was brought for a staggering $1.35 million, and the trainer was exceptionally exciting about the Derby contender following his stunning debut. His first start came back in October, as he won a maiden special weight in extremely eye-catching fashion.
He finished nearly ten lengths clear of Tshiebwe, and scored an Equibase speed rating of 99. However, he is yet to return to the track following that effort, which means that he remains with zero points on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
Gulfport could yet be one of his best chances of getting a runner into the Derby this year, as the three-year-old has already competed in graded company. The three-year-old finished second in both the G2 Saratoga Special and G1 Hopeful Stakes last season. The latter saw him beaten by G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, Forte. On his most recent start, Gulfport could only finish third in the Champagne Stakes, and we are yet to see the talented colt by Uncle Mo return to the track in 2023.
Echo Again is one of the few Asmussen Derby contenders that we have already seen in 2023. But the colt by Gun Runner could only finish sixth on his return to action in the G3 Lecomte Stakes over 1 1/16 miles. A drop back to a shorter distance looks likely, which could put a run at Churchill Downs out of the question.