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Probably the toughest adjustment Asmussen had to make, though, was in coping with the very long straights—one as long as 10 furlongs—which may have caused, some say, more than a few difficulties in la lutte, his timing of a late run. After all, French horsemen say, it took the great Piggott 10 years to figure out Longchamp. "Certainly he had to figure out our long straight lines," Boutin says of Asmussen. "But people who criticize him for his finish should look at some statistics. Four times out of five in photo finishes he's won the verdict." They might look also at the way he won the Poule d'Essai des Poulains, bringing L'Emigrant up behind the leaders, timing his run perfectly.
Boutin was talking at Les Aigles as Asmussen rode out on Niarchos' 3-year-old filly Allicance, half-sister to stakes-winner Blushing Groom, a million-dollar yearling at Keeneland in the days when you could still pick up a bargain.
"Winning the confidence of Boutin did not just snap out of the clouds," Asmussen had said earlier. But that meeting at Keeneland had helped convince the trainer that the young man was more than just an ordinary jockey; that he was the complete horseman. Which Asmussen is not slow to confirm. "Being a good jockey is not just being able to guide 'em," he says. "You have to know a lot more. I want to be an overall horseman, not just a jockey, not just a breeder, not just a trainer."
That is an ambition that could well be realized, no doubt, when he finishes his riding career in the U.S., as he says he will, and goes back to the family horse business in Texas. And becomes an American again? The question rubs him a little raw.
"Can you get more American than I am?" he asks. "I think it's an honor for America that the Europeans approached me just because I had so much success in the U.S. It's an honor that they respect American riders, that they have one come over and ride some of the best horses in the world. They've been going twice as long as we have."
An honor, too, he considers it, that as an American he rides all over the world for Niarchos. "Japan, England, France, Italy, Germany, Belgium," he recites, "Tunisia, Morocco...."
It's tough' to keep a boy down on the farm now that he's seen not only Paris but much of the rest of the world. And maybe, with Saint-Martin's coming retirement, there will be the possibility of riding for the marvelous racing establishment of the Aga Khan. It may be some time before Cash gets back to Laredo on a permanent basis.