Part of the Asmussen equation is his string at Woodbine Racecourse near Toronto, Canada, overseen by assistant trainers Devron Leingang and Mandy Seim. Leingang and Seim are in Dubai to supervise the training of Group 1 US$1million Al Quoz Sprint, sponsored by Emirates NBD, contender Regally Ready.
Leingang was training horses himself when trainer Steve Asmussen gave a horse to his father-in-law, Jim Peterson, to race on the smaller circuits. Leingang was headed to Assinaboia Downs and offered to take the horse with him.
“It took the whole summer to get this horse right,” said Leingang. “But we ended the season with a win in Fargo. The next summer we won four races with him.”
Meanwhile, Asmussen gave Leingang another horse to train and this horse went on to win three races. Ultimately, in March 2010, Asmussen asked Leingang to join his stable, sending Leingang and Seim to Oaklawn Park.
While Leingang’s birthplace of Mandan, North Dakota is considered a small town in the U.S., Seim’s home town of Bison, South Dakota might not appear in an atlas.
“Bison probably won’t even show up on a map,” said Mandy. “It’s a town of 450 people with only a bank, a grocery store, a bar and a gas station. Growing up, if we even wanted to go to Wal-Mart we had to drive 100 miles.”
Despite the small town start, Seim gained huge experience working for Quarter Horse trainer and second generation horseman Bob Johnson for 11 years.
“We broke 40 head of two-year-olds every fall. I enjoyed the Quarter Horses. They love to be brushed,” she remembered. “They can stand there all day for it. Thoroughbreds just want to kick you.”
But Seim has taken to Thoroughbreds, and while Leingang leads the division, Asmussen entrusts Seim with both handling his horses as well as transporting them.
“If we have two to saddle at the races Devron will saddle one and I will saddle the other,” she said. “When we are in Louisiana and horses need to run at Delta Downs, I’ll haul ‘em to Delta, run ‘em, and haul ‘em back.”
The couple has been in Dubai since February, when they arrived with 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Regally Ready. The son of More Than Ready is pointed to a start in Saturday’s Al Quoz Sprint.
Regally Ready made a start in the Meydan Sprint on March 10, a strategy that worked perfectly for two-time horse of the year Curlin, who won the Jaguar Trophy five weeks before taking the 2008 Group 1 Dubai World Cup, sponsored by Emirates Airline. However, the outcome of the prep race was entirely different for Regally Ready, who finished 13th of 15.
“We can’t say this is the reason why or this is the reason why,” Leingang said. “We are just hoping that the flight took a little something off of him or the course was a little bit softer, but no excuses but he is a little stronger now than before.”
After Saturday’s Dubai World Cup, Leingang and Seim are looking forward to returning to their familiar surroundings in Toronto, Canada.
“Probably the biggest thing I look forward to is having my original cell phone back,” Leingang remarked. “This has been an experience. Before Dubai, even a trip to Europe was never on my radar.”
Regardless, Leingang and Seim have found bits of home on the other side of the globe, including their regular meals at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant.
“It’s our home away from home in the Dubai Mall. The steak tastes just like the steak back in North Dakota,” said Leingang.
Seim added, “It’s exactly the same as home. You can actually hear some Alan Jackson and Lady Antebellum, even a little George Strait. You get a feeling of home for an hour.”
But home is where they hang their hats. The couple leaves for Toronto April 4, where they will prepare horses for Asmussen for the upcoming Woodbine meet.
“The horses are our kids,” said Mandy. “We move around too much to even have dogs.”