2017 Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour: Mark Casse

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A season removed from bringing a barn led by champion Tepin and several other Grade 1 winners and millionaires to the 2016 Saratoga meeting, Mark Casse is back with another strong group that could get the nine-time Sovereign Award winner off to a quick start. (Editor’s note: Originally published in July 21 issue of The Saratoga Special.)

Casse, who splits the responsibilities of the Saratoga string with his son and top assistant Norman, brought 58 horses to upstate New York this year. The main group of 30, led by champion and multiple Grade 1 winner Classic Empire is bedded down in Barn 29 on the main track’s far turn with the remainder in a rented barn on Gridley Avenue.

“I just hope the horses like the sound of partying at The Horseshoe,” Norman Casse said during the break Thursday morning. “Every time I drive by that place at night and it’s bumping I think, ‘oh I wish I didn’t train horses,’ so I could go hang out.”

Casse was certainly joking, considering the opportunity he and his father have to condition a barn full of well-meant stock fueled by longtime clients like John and Debby Oxley, Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation, Gary Barber and Robert Masterson. This year’s Saratoga string features the usual mix of stakes horses, 2-year-olds and everything in between. Norman Casse grabbed a printout of the group and discussed some of his favorites with The Special’s Tom Law Thursday morning.

Snowfire: Daughter of Tapit cost $500,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale and broke her maiden first time out June 29 at Churchill Downs. “She’s in the Schuylerville Opening Day. We’re excited about her, hoping to point to the Spinaway at the end of the meet. High-quality filly and we’re looking forward to running her here, hopefully a couple times. We thought she was good and she delivered on her morning workouts.”

Dream Dancing: Oxley’s homebred 3-year-old daughter of Tapit won the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride in March at Gulfstream and is entered in today’s Grade 3 Lake George. “Very talented grass filly, loves the grass here at Saratoga in particular. She runs in the Lake George and probably comes back in the Lake Placid if she runs well there. She’s another horse we could see multiple times here during the meet.”

Salty: Winner of Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks, daughter of Quality Road finished fifth in Kentucky Oaks and second in Grade 1 Acorn, both races won by Abel Tasman. “I just entered her for the Coaching Club American Oaks for Sunday. She’s kind of been unlucky to hook up with Abel Tasman the last couple of times but we feel we could turn the tables with the right type of trip. She had a troubled trip in the Oaks, a bad post-position that day under the circumstances, then Abel Tasman had a better trip than her in the Acorn because Mike Smith put on a wonderful ride. Bad luck under the circumstances. We’re running into her again, but that’s fine.”

Holding Gold: Live Oak homebred won Grade 2 Shakertown in April at Keeneland and exits a third in record-setting Grade 3 Jaipur Invitational on the Belmont Stakes undercard. “He’s become a really good turf sprinter for us. He’s going to run in the Troy. He’s really worked well since his race at Belmont. He’s been doing really well and we’re excited to have him here.”

World Approval: Live Oak’s 5-year-old homebred Northern Afleet gelding won last year’s Grade 1 United Nations and a pair of stakes this spring, including the Grade 2 Dixie on the Preakness undercard. “He’s a Grade 1 winner, toying with the idea of cutting him back and running in the Fourstardave at a mile. He’s kind of like a horse where we have to figure out what the right distance is for him; a mile and a quarter is probably too long, a mile and an eighth is probably perfect, a mile might be too short but with the right type of pace, right type of trip he could run effectively at a mile so we’re trying him there. He’s a cool horse to be around. We actually call him ‘The World’s Meanest Racehorse’ because he’s so grumpy, or ‘Mr. Grumpy,’ those are his two nicknames.”

Mo Diddley: New York-bred colt by Uncle Mo cost $450,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale and impressed winning his debut May 18 at Churchill for Cheyenne Stables and Gary Barber. “He’s probably my favorite 2-year-old right now. He broke his maiden at Churchill after breaking to the outside fence. We had him in the Bashford Manor closing day at Churchill but he just wasn’t perfect that day, so we backed off and decided to point to the Saratoga Special. He was sensational in his one work here over the main track.”

Awesome Slew: Fourth in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap and second last time to Mind Your Biscuits in the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint Championship, Live Oak homebred raced at Saratoga in 2015 when fourth in the Grade 3 Sanford for trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. “He just got here (Wednesday) and is being pointed to the Forego. We thought he ran really respectable against Mind Your Biscuits and we’d like to turn the tables against him with the right type of trip.”

Classic Empire: Oxley’s champion 2-year-old male and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner last year hasn’t raced since finishing second in the Preakness. Missed a chance to run in the Belmont Stakes with recurrence of a foot abscess. “Racing’s bad boy, aka The Monkey. I don’t know, they call him that, that’s just what the girls in the barn call him. I guess it’s because he’s goofy. He had his foot issue, he’s actually had two what I would consider timed workouts at Churchill that the clockers just didn’t catch. Everybody thinks he hasn’t done anything since he was scratched from the Belmont but that’s just not true. He’s had a few works. He just wasn’t training as we would have liked going into the Haskell so we took a step back with him and now pointing him to the Travers. It’s a tall order but we think with a horse like him, a very special horse, that it’s not a crazy idea. We think it’s possible. He has had a funny history at every racetrack he’s ever been to. He’s one of the most frustrating horses that we’ve ever trained but he’s also a horse we’re very proud of. Mainly because of the frustration and all the success. He’s quite a character. Everybody is like, ‘it must have been hard to lose the Preakness like that and not to make the Belmont.’ It’s not, because if you knew what we went through in the springtime it didn’t seem like we were going to make the Arkansas Derby after the Holy Bull. The whole Triple Crown was like playing on house money and he’s gotten a lot more respect and we’re proud of what we did with him. From here on out, whatever we do with him is filler.”

Mississippi Delta: Upset the Grade 3 Intercontinental going 7 furlongs on the grass June 8 at Belmont. Five-year-old daughter Giant’s Causeway is a multiple stakes winner. “I just entered her for the Caress. She’s turned into a really special middle distance turf sprinter. It’s tough, she’s kind of a niche horse. We’re cutting her back to 5 ½ from 7/8ths, which might be a little too short for her but there aren’t a lot of options. Most importantly she’s training really well right now, whether or not it’s too short is the question but she’s going to run well for us.”

La Coronel: An 0-for-2 2-year-old maiden when she appeared in last year’s Stable Tour, daughter of Colonel John is now a three-time Grade 3 winner who finished fifth in Group 1 Coronation Stakes last month at Royal Ascot. “She will be here; just had her first published work since coming back from Royal Ascot. She’ll come up here next week, we’ll point toward the Lake Placid.”

Arrival: Son of Tapit who cost $800,000 as a yearling finished fourth in debut June 28 at Churchill after being bumped at the start. “He got away bad at Churchill in his debut. He’s obviously a highly regarded 2-year-old being a Tapit. We felt like he was going to be one that would need a race maturity wise, but physically he’s a tremendous athlete, should be a good horse to watch in the future for us. He should breeze (Friday) and run July 29 hopefully.” 

He Takes Charge: Unraced 2-year-old by Tapit is out of Elarose, a daughter of Storm Cat out of multiple Grade 1 winner Take Charge Lady. “Not the most professional horse yet but you can tell that the other attributes are there. Maybe down the road in the fall he’ll be a horse that once we start routing him on the main track he’ll be a very talented horse.”

Get The Facts: Oxley homebred colt by Tapit breezed a half in :48.65 last Saturday and is entered for his debut in Saturday’s fifth race going 5 ½ furlongs on the dirt. “He’s a cool horse because he’s out of a mare named Delightful Mary, who is actually the first big horse we had for Mr. Oxley. He’s a homebred, very talented, kind of a watch-and-see horse. He could win this weekend and at the same time I feel like the horses that have been here a little longer have a bit of an advantage over the horses that just got here. He would be a horse that maybe we could have him in the Hopeful by the end of the meet.”