For nearly 20 years, John Asher, current vice president of racing communications for Churchill Downs, has been sharing his horeseracing expertise with the readers of The Voice-Tribune. Last week, that unforgettable series came to an end when Asherâ€™s final â€œHorse Senseâ€ column ran in the July 14, 2016, issue. Though as passionate as ever about horseracing, Asher decided his schedule has simply become too hectic to allow him to continue contributing. As he says, â€œItâ€™s been a significant investment of time and passion. The passionâ€™s still there, but the time is not!â€
Though in other areas there are those who may be surprised that a weekly newspaper regularly publishes a horseracing column, Asher attests that there was never a dearth of material to discuss in his weekly installments. â€œItâ€™s been a great opportunity to talk about our sport and talk about it year-round,â€ he says. â€œThis is a horseracing town and a horseracing region, so the subjectâ€™s important to a lot of people throughout the year. For others, they warm up around Derby time or meet times, but thereâ€™s a lot of fascinating things that go on throughout the year. So itâ€™s been a great opportunity to just keep a discussion of our sport and our business on the table on a weekly basis.â€
Over his time as a contributor, Asher garnered many dedicated fans, thanks in no small part to the exoteric language he always utilized in his columns. There was something for everyone â€“ from those unfamiliar with the industry to those who never miss a race. â€œThatâ€™s a goal I always had in doing it: Iâ€™ve always tried to produce something that was accessible and understandable to people who donâ€™t follow [horseracing] every day while not insulting those who do,â€ he explains.
As far as standout moments in his time with The Voice, Asher doesnâ€™t have to look back too far, as last year was an unequivocal highlight. â€œObviously, last year was a lot of fun with that winner!â€ he says of Triple Crown champion American Pharoah. â€œThat was a joy to write about, and to watch that was one of the great things Iâ€™ve ever been connected with during my time in the business, which dates back to my first Derby in 1982 that I covered as a radio reporter.â€
Another momentous moment came about halfway through his time as a regular Voice-Tribune writer. â€œ2007 was special for me,â€ he affirms. â€œThat was a pretty terrific group of horses. We had Street Sense win the Kentucky Derby, and he was one of my favorite horses over the years. Also, a great horse named Curlin was in there â€“ a two-time Horse of the Year. And a filly named Rags to Riches won the Belmont Stakes that year, so that Triple Crown was pretty special to me.â€
However, there is one specific time that truly stands above the rest, a time that had Asher reconcile his current career with his childhood love of Thoroughbred racing in a deeply personal way. â€œThere was one column in particular that I wrote when my mother passed; she encouraged me when I fell in love with Thoroughbred racing, and she didnâ€™t have to do that. And she managed to find a way to get me to Louisville for a visit to Churchill Downs when I was a freshman in high school. I grew up about an hour and a half away, but I didnâ€™t have the opportunity to go to the track on a regular basis. I was lucky enough to watch coverage of the races on TV or listen to it on the radio, but thereâ€™s no substitute for seeing the Twin Spires in person for the first time. But she always encouraged me, and when she passed, I wrote a column about her passing and what her support had meant to me.â€
Without question, John Asher has been an integral part of The Voice-Tribune for nearly two decades. I, on behalf of all of Blue Equity Publishing, thank John for his knowledgeable articles that were always written in a style that was both deeply informative and engagingly conversational. His passion for horseracing shone through with each piece, and his contributions will certainly be missed, though perhaps we can still look forward to the occasional feature. Farewell for now, John, and thank you for you for sharing your unparalleled â€œhorse senseâ€ with us.
Photos courtesy of Churchill Downs