‘Good Memories’: Asmussen And The 11-Year-Old Tan Suit

 No horse will be better suited for Saturday’s $16 million Pegasus World Cup Gulfstream Park than overwhelming favorite Gun Runner. He’s the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, riding a streak of four straight dominating Grade 1 victories that are expected to propel him to Horse of the Year honors Thursday and been training up a storm. On top of it, his 11 rivals in the world’s richest horse race must tackle the mojo of what Gun Runner’s trainer is wearing. 

Steve Asmussen has worn a certain custom-made jacket and pants — known simply as The Tan Suit to the Hall of Fame trainer and his wife, Julie — while turning Curlin, Rachel Alexandra, Untapable and now Gun Runner into champions who made millions of dollars.

Asmussen’s priority is fast horses, not fashion. So who cares if the 11-year-old suit sagged and bagged when Gun Runner won the Breeders’ Cup Classic? The Suit has been taken in and taken out so many times that proper alterations are becoming a challenge.

“The Tan Suit will be worn,” Steve Asmussen said emphatically of the Pegasus. “I took so much heat over how it doesn’t fit that I decided that I will fill into it, how’s that? I decided it’s a lot easier just to fill it out than take it in.”

Who wants to ditch a suit that has been witness to so much greatness? Two-time Horse of the Year Curlin giving Asmussen his first Triple Crown winner in the 2007 Preakness and his first Breeders’ Cup Classic in the Monmouth Park mud, then the next spring winning in the desert in the $10 million Dubai World Cup. Rachel Alexandra’s march to 2009 Horse of the Year, including her Preakness victory and historic triumph over older males in Saratoga’s Woodward Stakes. Untapable winning the 2014 Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

“The boys tease Steve: ‘Dad your pants are pleated. People don’t even wear pleated pants anymore,’” Julie said of their sons Darren, Keith and Erik, who were 8, 6 and 4 years old when The Tan Suit was born. “He’s like, ‘Oh, well…’”

As they say, suit yourself.

If not its first appearance overall, The Tan Suit’s first major win probably was Curlin in Oaklawn Park’s 2007 Rebel Stakes — his first race under Asmussen’s care after being sold. It was there for Curlin’s Arkansas Derby, Preakness and Jockey Club Gold Cup and that Breeders’ Cup.

“I have a habit of looking back at a win picture and what did I have on?” Asmussen said. “That’s probably how it happened. Not that you got it specifically for him. It’s just like he won, and what the heck was I wearing? That’s how it happened.”

The Tan Suit even has been immortalized in an Asmussen bobblehead given out by Lone Star Park.  And while Asmussen can win major races without it — a navy suit horned in when Tapizar won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in 2012 and the trainer was wearing a brand new gray one for Creator’s 2016 Belmont — The Tan Suit certainly has an affinity for horses headed to Eclipse Award stardom.

“I’m just stupid superstitious,” Asmussen said. “I’ve got a lot of suits that work better, but they’re not in win pictures, so they don’t look better. Julie and I think alike. We know it’s silly, but why not? It’s hanging in my closet, and I cannot look at it without chuckling how silly it is. But it’s so many good memories, if nothing else. It may not even have a good (win) percentage, who knows? But getting to saddle Curlin and Gun Runner makes a lot of things lucky.”

Asmussen jokes that wearing underwear with the suit is a must because, “It’s pretty dang thin, man. You hold up it up and you can see through the dang thing.”

“It is so thin, and we’ve tried to find the same fabric,” Julie said. “It’s just not the same. I just laugh about it. So, yes, we have let it out and we’ve taken it up a couple of times. The gentleman who does his suits, he finally said, ‘I think we just need to make you a new one.’ Steve’s like, ‘Nope, not making me a new one.’ We can’t take it up anymore, it’s just so thin.

“(But) it’s going to keep going. When he says, ‘Bring my suit,’ I know which one he means. I don’t have to ask him ‘The black one? The blue one? The gray one?’ When we have to retire it, that will be very sad. He’s got new suits that he’s not won a race with, and they hang in the closet.”

Haberdasher Wally Hardin said Julie requested a new suit for her husband about the time Curlin arrived on the scene in early 2007. Hardin designed and had the original suit custom-made out of lightweight, year-round wool with a thread thickness of “super 130s” for that mix of luxury and durability.

“Steve, like a lot of fellows, could care less about a suit than an ice-cream cone,” Hardin said. “It didn’t mean anything to him. So I went to their home and measured him in his office while he talked on the phone and worked some sort of horse deal. And it evolved into where that was his lucky suit.”

 Hardin says he’s lost count how many times he’s altered the suit, until now “there’s not a whole lot for the needle to get a hold of.”

On another sartorial note, Asmussen said he might finally cut his shoulder-length hair after Gun Runner retires to stud following the Pegasus, amending, “I might pull it out after Gun Runner retires.”

But, he said emphatically, “The Suit will not retire.”

The post ‘Good Memories’: Asmussen And The 11-Year-Old Tan Suit appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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