Archives for August 30, 2018

John Asher was the Kentucky Derby’s beaming ambassador

Horse Racing Has Lost a Legend in John Asher

John Asher was the Kentucky Derby’s beaming ambassador

Just a few of the quotes from those who knew him:

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert: “John was the warm human face of Churchill Downs. I was always happy to see him. He was as Kentucky as the Derby, bluegrass, bourbon and hot browns. I can’t imagine Derby week without him.”

Morning line odds maker and retired track announcer Mike Battaglia: “I’m heartsick to hear about the passing of my good friend John Asher. My deepest condolences go out to Dee and all of his family. John was loved by many and will be deeply missed.”

Trainer Chuck Simon: “John was just a great person. When I first started training in Kentucky I didn’t know that many people and used to hang out with (late track announcer) Luke Kruytbosch who was my friend from Arizona. Back then, Luke was stationed near the old Press Box and Gold Room for the big players and John was always around. He always took the time to come over and talk to me every time he saw me and ask how my horses were and if I had anything that he could include in a press release – knowing that free press is a godsend for a new trainer starting out. He barely knew me yet he was trying to help me out.

So a few years later I had a horse named Pirate King that John liked. The horse was working really well and even though it was the weeks leading to Derby, which for John was Christmas, every time the horse worked John would email me the clocker’s sheet for the day with a little note, ‘make sure you let me know when he runs, I want to bet a few bucks.’

I don’t think he was a big betting man really but for some reason he took a liking to this horse. So, I enter the horse for opening day of the CD spring meet which of course is the weekend before the Derby. John sees me on the backstretch the day before and says, ‘Well, is he ready?’

I said, ‘He’s pretty live, John. You’ve seen the works.’ So he says good luck, see you in the winner’s circle. The horse gallops at 20-1 and the first thing I think of is John probably laughing as the horse crossed the wire. So, we go in the winner’s circle and I don’t see him. After the race I text him and he doesn’t answer. So, I figure he must be busy as it is Derby Week and he is swamped. The next day he comes to the barn and gives me this sheepish look. I said, ‘You didn’t bet him, did you?’ He said all morning I was thinking I have to remember to get a bet in on Pirate King and then I got tied up in a press conference then there was some emergency then the governor’s office called then I got called into the meeting.

John said he heard Luke say over the loud speaker, ‘Pirate King still going strong.’  He said, ‘Damn I knew that horse was gonna win.’ But, he was happy that he won even though he didn’t get a bet down at 20-1. He was a great guy who loved the Derby and loved Churchill Downs and loved Western Kentucky sports and loved his family more than anything. Few people I ever met were as naturally kind as John Asher was. It’s hard to believe that both Luke and John are both gone.”

 

Tim Sullivan Courier Journal Longtime Churchill Downs spokesman John Asher dies at 62

Glasgow Daily Times Full coverage: John Asher was the Kentucky Derby’s beaming ambassador | Tim Sullivan