Asmussen’s Second Triple Crown Runner-Up Sparks Frustration

Analyzing Epicenter’s Disappointing Performances in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes

An Upset for Trainer Steve Asmussen

In a surprising turn of events, Epicenter, trained by Steve Asmussen, finished second in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Asmussen was left perplexed and disappointed by these outcomes, as Epicenter was expected to be the frontrunner in both races.

A Bad Start and Poor Tactics

As the 6/5 favorite in the Preakness Stakes, Epicenter was widely regarded as the horse to beat. However, a combination of a bad start and poor tactical decisions resulted in his second consecutive runner-up finish in a Triple Crown race. Asmussen was particularly frustrated with jockey Joel Rosario’s strategy of holding back Epicenter during a slow opening quarter-mile and half-mile.

Missed Opportunities

Asmussen expressed his disappointment with Rosario’s decision to keep Epicenter restrained during the early stages of the race. He believed that leaving the gates quickly was crucial, especially with a horse that possessed such impressive pace. The slow pace set by the leaders allowed Epicenter to fall too far behind, making it difficult for him to catch up and secure a victory.

The struggle to Overcome the Deficit

Epicenter found himself in a challenging position, trailing more than seven lengths behind as the race progressed. As the frontrunners set the pace, Epicenter struggled to close the gap. Despite a valiant effort, he could only manage to finish third, four lengths behind the leader at the top of the stretch. This deficit proved too significant to overcome, resulting in another disappointing second-place finish.

The Challenges Faced by Epicenter

Unfulfilled Pre-Race Instructions

Before the race, Asmussen had instructed Rosario to ensure that Epicenter had a clean break from the gates and to allow other horses to adjust around him. Unfortunately, Epicenter did not get away cleanly, and Rosario’s subsequent decision to stay on the inside for the majority of the race went against their initial plan. Asmussen believed that these deviations from their strategy impacted Epicenter’s performance.

The Frustration of Joel Rosario

Rosario, who rode Epicenter during the race, expressed his frustration with the circumstances and acknowledged that he would have made different choices given another opportunity. He regretted not taking Epicenter to the outside and waiting for a better chance to make a move. Rosario believed that the early disadvantage and being stuck on the inside ultimately cost them the victory.

Epicenter’s Versatility and Speed

Epicenter is a remarkable racehorse known for his exceptional speed and versatility. With a Beyer Speed Figure of 102, the highest among the horses in the Preakness field, he demonstrated his ability to perform well under various racing conditions. He has shown proficiency in leading from the front, pressing the pace, and stalking the leaders. With these skills, Epicenter appeared to be poised for success at the Preakness Stakes.

Assessing the Results and Future Prospects

The Frustration of Missed Opportunities

Despite being considered one of the most talented 3-year-olds in the country, Epicenter’s bid for Triple Crown glory ended in two consecutive second-place finishes. Asmussen’s disappointment was amplified by the fact that Epicenter still lacks a Grade 1 victory, despite his immense talent and potential.

A Competitive Field at the Preakness Stakes

The Preakness Stakes also saw Secret Oath, the 5/1 second choice, finishing in fourth place. As the Kentucky Oaks winner, Secret Oath aimed to become the seventh filly to win the Preakness in history. However, the slow early pace of the race made it challenging for her to mount a successful run. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas acknowledged her impressive effort but recognized that it was not her day.

A Brutal Trip for Secret Oath

Jockey Luis Saez, who rode Secret Oath, described her journey as brutal due to the chaotic nature of the race. Although Secret Oath broke well out of the gates, the crowded field made it difficult to find a favorable position. Saez made a move on the backstretch, but by the top of the stretch, the eventual winner had already gained a significant advantage. Secret Oath’s energy was depleted, and she was unable to close the gap.


Epicenter’s second consecutive second-place finish in a Triple Crown race left both trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Joel Rosario disappointed. Failed execution of pre-race instructions, combined with a poor start and tactical decisions, hindered Epicenter’s chances of victory. Despite his impressive speed and versatility, Epicenter remains without a Grade 1 win. Secret Oath, the Kentucky Oaks winner, also faced difficulties during the Preakness Stakes due to the slow early pace. These disappointing results highlight the challenges faced by both horses in a highly competitive field.


1. Can Epicenter recover from the setbacks suffered in the Triple Crown races?

While the recent performances in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes may be disheartening, Epicenter possesses the talent and versatility to bounce back. With a capable trainer like Steve Asmussen guiding his career, Epicenter has the potential to achieve success in future races.

2. What are the prospects for Secret Oath following her fourth-place finish in the Preakness Stakes?

Although Secret Oath faced challenges due to the slow early pace, her overall performance demonstrated her capabilities as a top-class racehorse. With the guidance of trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Secret Oath can regroup and aim for success in future races.

3. What adjustments can be made to Epicenter’s racing strategy?

To enhance Epicenter’s chances of victory, strategic adjustments can be made, such as ensuring a clean break from the gates and positioning him to avoid being trapped on the inside. A more aggressive approach could also be considered, allowing Epicenter to utilize his exceptional speed and capitalize on favorable racing conditions.

4. How important is a Grade 1 victory for Epicenter’s career?

A Grade 1 victory is a significant milestone in any racehorse’s career, as it signifies their ability to compete at the highest level. Securing a Grade 1 win would not only boost Epicenter’s reputation but also enhance his value as a sire and contribute to his overall legacy in the racing industry.

5. Will Epicenter participate in future Triple Crown races?

While the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes did not yield the desired results for Epicenter, his participation in future Triple Crown races remains a possibility. With careful consideration of his form and optimal race conditions, the decision to enter him in future Triple Crown events will be made in the best interest of Epicenter’s long-term success.

Doug I. Jones

Doug I. Jones

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