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Long Ago Quarter Horse Connections Continue To Cross Paths In Thoroughbred World
(Top) Papa Rocket, under jockey Keith James Asmussen. (Below) Laurie and D. Wayne Lukas in the Oaklawn Park winner’s circle with Keith J. Asmussen and Steven Asmussen.

© Coady Phtography
Long Ago Quarter Horse Connections Continue To Cross Paths In Thoroughbred World

HOT SPRINGS, AR–JANUARY 20, 2022–Two of the most prominent names in Thoroughbred racing, who both got their start in the racing Quarter Horse industry, crossed paths again, after five-plus decades and three generations, in a six-furlong race on January 14th at Oaklawn Park.

Jockey Keith James Asmussen rode his first career winner on January 14th at Oaklawn Park for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. 

Keith James’ father Steve Asmussen happens to be North America's all-time winningest Thoroughbred trainer.

Keith James’ grandfather, Keith Asmussen, rode for Lukas during the 1960s when both were in the Quarter Horse racing industry competing at Park Jefferson in South Dakota, Centennial Racetrack in Colorado, and Columbus Race Course in Texas.

Jockey Keith Asmussen rode Quarter Horse gelding Ever Magic to his first career win for trainer D. Wayne Lukas on March 15, 1969, at Columbus Race Course.
© Columbus Race Course Photo

Lukas, 87, who is a member of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, and the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame has been a longtime friend of the Asmussen family.

In his first career mount for Lukas, the 24-year-old guided Papa Rocket ($12.40) to a neck victory in the third race at Oaklawn Park on January 14, a $30,000 sprint for claimers.

It was Asmussen's eighth career victory. The first seven were for his father Steve Asmussen, who won 63 races as a jockey in the early 1980s before turning to training.

"It doesn't get more sentimental than that," Asmussen said. "It's funny, after the race we passed around a bunch of pictures of papa when he rode."

One that surfaced was a black and white win photo of the fifth race on March 15, 1969, at Columbus Race Course. A young Lukas, in his trademark cowboy hat, was holding Ever Magic in the winner’s circle. . The son of Everett Jr. (TB), out of the Lightning Bar mare Lightning Magic, just broke his miden in a 350-yard race under jockey Keith Asmussen.

Almost 54 years later, Lukas found himself in another win picture, this one in color, with Asmussen's grandson.

“What an incredible experience to be able to duplicate and share with my grandfather,” Keith James posted on his twitter feed. “Thank you so much Mr Lukas (The Coach)!”