Veteran Top Tandem Invades the Spa

Throughout their careers, driver Larry Stalbaum and trainer Kim Asher have enjoyed enormous amounts of success. Stalbaum and Asher are husband and wife and they have been a dynamic duo in harness racing for decades while competing at a host of different tracks throughout different parts of the country. Based in Michigan back in the late 80’s, Larry Stalbaum got his career as a driver started. It didn’t take him long to become one of the top catch-drivers in Michigan as Larry first won over 100 races in a season in 1989. It would be just the start of what would become an historic career.

Stalbaum has been a sulky star for decades and in 2004, the veteran reinsman compiled the most wins he would ever record in a single season. He won 421 races in ’04 in what would be his last year racing in Michigan. Stalbaum and Asher moved their operation east and set up shop in New York in 2005. Running their stable together, Stalbaum and Asher made a splash immediately upon establishing themselves at the numerous east coast tracks at which they competed. Driving and racing their horses at tracks such as Yonkers, Monticello and even Saratoga at times, Stalbaum and Asher enjoyed instant success. Larry piled up 419 driving wins in ’06, just a couple of victories off of his career-best ’04 campaign. Their stable won 139 races in its New York debut in ’05 before rattling off 171 wins in each of the next two years.

The powerful Stalbaum-Asher duo has continued to thrive in pretty much every season since moving east. Stalbaum, who has tallied over $1 million in purses as a driver every year since 2003, enjoyed a dynamic ’12 campaign. The veteran driver amassed almost $4.4 million in purses in 2012 alone while driving primarily at Yonkers. Last year, Stalbaum and Asher brought their operation to western New York and competed at Buffalo and Batavia in what would wind up being a career year for their stable. In ’17, Asher posted just insane stats in what was a career-best season for the long time conditioner. In 784 starts in total last season, Asher tallied 219 wins and hit the board 479 times. She earned over $1 million in purses every year from 2007-2012 and again achieved the feat in ’15 and in her banner ’17 campaign. Stalbaum was Buffalo Raceway’s leading driver while Asher won the training title at Buffalo and Batavia by “open lengths” last season when she was near the top among all trainers in North America in training percentage in a year that her stable was simply dominant.

The wildly successful tandem of Stalbaum and Asher has raced from time to time at Saratoga over the years. We would see the nomadic horsepersons, like we did this season, mostly during the early months of the year before most other tracks are open. Despite competing only sporadically at the Spa, Stalbaum and Asher have always enjoyed success when they’ve come to town. That winning team returned to Saratoga at the beginning of June after competing primarily at Yonkers and Monticello in 2018. The Asher stable did pretty well in the past month or so with Stalbaum at the controls but it wasn’t until Saturday night, June 30th, when her barn began to impose its will at the Spa. Asher reached a career milestone that night when her Itsonlyrocknroll A went coast to coast in an upper level condition race. The victory was the 2,000thin the fantastic career of the top-flight trainer. The stable went on to have the biggest night it has had at the Spa when it scored wins later that evening with pacers Mister Livan N and Tenacious One A, the latter which prevailed despite being parked every step of the mile. While not on pace to have the kind of year she had in ’17, Asher is again having a terrific campaign and already has almost $750,000 in earnings with the season only at its midpoint.

While their horses are usually competing against top level competition at whatever track they are racing at, Asher and Stalbaum didn’t have an Open win at Saratoga in June. On Friday night, their Culinary Delight N competed in her fourth consecutive Fillies and Mares Open at the Spa. Coming off a strong-closing second the previous week, Culinary Delight N appeared poised to be a threat in the $14,500 Friday feature and threat she would prove to be. Stalbaum guided the New Zealand invader up alongside the race’s favorite heading to three quarters and she simply overpowered her main rival. Culinary Delight N secured her first local Open win and did so in a career best 1:52.2, lowering her lifetime mark by almost two full seconds. Later in the card, fellow top-flight distaffer Gina Grace N proved to be too much for her competition as she was another Asher trainee to set a new lifetime mark on the Friday card with Stalbaum in the sulky. Two horses, two victories, two new career-best win times and one Open score for Asher trainees on Friday evening during what has been a surge for her stable at the Spa.

Following the Saturday hat trick during which she won her 2,000thcareer race, Asher went two for two on Friday night including the career-best win by Culinary Delight N. On Saturday night, the Asher stable had six members compete at the Spa. Fresh off the Friday night of lifetime marks from her barn, Asher saw another trainee put in a career-best performance on Saturday night as Stening A was a decisive winner in a lower level condition race. Stening A registered his first victory of the year and lowered his lifetime mark by nearly two full seconds. Later on the card, Shady City put in one of the miles of the meet as Stalbaum aggressively piloted the invading pace and Shady City thrived despite getting an extremely difficult, first-over journey. A trotter joined the party on Sunday as Asher’s On Thunder Road N lowered his lifetime mark by close to three seconds in the $12,000 Winners Over trot. The barn is simply on a tear. Albeit only in about 60 starts, Asher came into the weekend’s action with a training average of about .380 and that was before they had a monster few days and tallied another five victories, with each winner being more impressive than the previous one. As far as Stalbaum, he just keeps winning. In almost 40,000 career drives, the veteran pilot has more than 5,800 victories and has accrued almost $40 million in purses! Asher and Stalbaum have certainly bounced around but the one constant for the red-hot tag team is winning, something they continue to do while competing more regularly at Saratoga this summer. If the past in any indication, there is no telling how long the pair will continue to compete with any regularity at the Spa but one thing you can count on, for however long they will race here and wherever they will go afterwards, Kim Asher and Larry Stalbaum will be regular attendees of the winner’s circle.

Live racing takes place on Thursday and Sunday afternoons this week with matinees starting at 12:15pm and on Friday and Saturday evenings beginning at 6:45pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!

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