US racetrack operator Churchill Downs has confirmed the passing of long-term serving VP of Racing Communications John Asher who died on Monday of an apparent heart attack whilst on vacation in Florida with his family.
Asher had served as Churchill Downs racing communications lead since 1999, becoming one of the most recognisable figureheads of the Kentucky-based racing operator.
Issuing a personal statement Kevin Flanery President of Churchill Downs declared that ‘racing has lost one of its giants, with the passing John Asher’.
“Racing has lost an icon. I and many others have lost a kind and generous friend. We will miss John’s laugh, his unmistakable voice and his unique storytelling.
“Our hearts and prayers are with his wife Dee, his daughters Heather, Erin and Emma and his grandsons, Cameron and Caden.”
Churchill Downs management confirmed that it will light its famed Kentucky Derby Twin Spires red in honour of Asher’s passing.
US racing and sports media have paid tribute to Asher, detailing his encyclopaedic knowledge of the sport and his work as a journalist and broadcaster.
Alex Waldrop President of the US National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) echoed Churchill Down’s sentiments, stating
“Over the past 20 years, no single person was more closely associated with the Kentucky Derby than John Asher. His knowledge of the Derby and his passion for its history and significance made him a popular speaker in Louisville, across the state of Kentucky and beyond. But his roots and passions ran much deeper. His alma mater, Western Kentucky University. Music. Literature. Family. He was an award-winning journalist and a five-time Eclipse Award winner for outstanding radio coverage of Thoroughbred racing.
He was a friend and mentor to many of us here at the NTRA and to so many others who came across his path. Our deepest sympathies to his wife Dee, his three beautiful daughters, his grandchildren who made him so proud and to the rest of his family and friends. All of us who were touched by his life will miss him deeply.”