10,820 1,704 1,573 1,407 $85,535,954 16 % 45 %
JANUARY to August 1, 2014
464 76 81 60 $6,153,980 17 % 45 %

Kaigun tops Play the King Stakes

Ron Gierkink, DRF

The Mark Casse-trained runners Kaigun and Lockout ran one-two in Sunday’s Grade 2, $224,800 Play the King Stakes, an important prep for the next month’s Grade 1 Woodbine Mile.

Michael Burns
In an important prep for the Woodbine Mile, Kaigun (left) finished on top Sunday in the Play the King Stakes at Woodbine.

The longshots Global Power and Sharp Sensation hooked up during quick fractions of 21.98 seconds and 44.59 in the seven-furlong turf sprint, while Something Extra stalked them in third.

Kaigan and Lockout saved ground on the turn while far back before they both mounted a wide rally in the stretch, and Kaigun prevailed by three-quarters of a length, in 1:20.71 over the firm ground.

Dimension overcame a slow start to grab third over a weakening Something Extra. Winning Prize, the 2-1 favorite from California, wound up sixth in the 10-horse field.

Kaigun ($9.80) got a confident ride from Patrick Husbands.

“I tried to ride a smart race and save some ground,” Husbands said. “Looking at the form, there was a lot of speed. It worked out perfect.”

Kaigun earned $144,000 in his first stakes victory for the partnership of Gary Barber, Quintessential Racing Florida LLC, and Horse’n Around Racing Stable. 

2014 Two year olds - all races
trainer starts 1st 2nd 3rd total $ per start $ win % top 3 top 3 %
Mark Casse   55  18  13  9  $1,108,578 $20,156   33%   40   73%
Todd Pletcher   55  14  12  4 $1,044,840 $18,997   25%   30   55%
Wesley Ward   79  15  19  9 $823,160 $10,420   19%   43   54%
Lexie Lou transitions to turf in Wonder Where win

Ron Gierkink, DRF

Queen’s Plate winner Lexie Lou made a smooth transition to the turf Sunday at Woodbine with a decisive score in the $250,000 Wonder Where Stakes, the final leg of the Canadian Triple Tiara.

Michael Burns
Lexie Lou made the transition to turf just fine Sunday with a victory in the Wonder Where Stakes at Woodbine.

Lexie Lou ($2.90) was boxed in along the inside behind the leaders until the top of the lane in the 10-furlong test for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies. Patrick Husbands angled her wide for the stretch run, and she collared pacemaker Skylander Girl around the three-sixteenths pole before drawing off for a three-length victory in a quick 2:00.90 over the firm ground.

“I told my valet that there was no speed [in the race], and I knew they were going to pocket me,” Husbands said. “Riding a speed horse like her, with a high cruising speed, the more they pocket me, the more she’ll relax. It was only a matter of time before I found my way out.”

Skylander Girl finished 6 1/2 lengths clear of Lapsang, who edged out Llanarmon for third. The latter was disqualified and placed seventh for interfering with Regal Conqueror in the stretch.

The Wonder Where was the fourth winner on the card for trainer Mark Casse and the second for Husbands. Earlier, they combined to take the Grade 2 Play the King with Kaigun, who’s owned in part by Barber. 

Lexie Lou has established herself as the leading candidate for Canadian Horse of the Year honors. Owner Gary Barber, who purchased her privately in the spring from owner-trainer John Ross, said she’ll probably make her next start on turf.

“Patrick said she’s 20 lengths better on the turf,” Barber said.

Dixie Twist wins maiden in Ontario Debutante
 A resilient Dixie Twist graduated in style Saturday at Woodbine, capturing the $139,000 Ontario Debutante Stakes over the charging longshot Roaming. 
Michael Burns
Dixie Twist, ridden by Gary Boulanger, beats Roaming by a head in the Ontario Debutante Stakes on Saturday.

Dixie Twist ($6.80) dueled up front with 9-5 favorite Starless Night through splits of 22.52 seconds and 46.06 in the six-furlong dash for 2-year-old fillies. Unhindered, the expected pacemaker, broke a bit slowly before making a four-wide move to the lead on the turn, but she tired in the final sixteenth, as Dixie Twist came back on to prevail by head in 1:11.14.

Sweet Dreams nosed out Unhindered for third, while Starless Night faded to last in the six-horse field.

Gary Boulanger rode the Mark Casse-trained Dixie Twist, who won $90,000 for owner John Oxley.

“We didn’t expect to be that close, but she broke really hard,” Boulanger said. “She was doing it easy. I went with the flow of the race and knew I had quite a bit of horse. Some horses on the outside made a big, sweeping move. She got her legs underneath her again, switched leads, and kicked on.”

Horse racing’s born winner
John Snobelen, Toronto Sun
When I first met Mark Casse I thought things might not go well.
Casse is on top of the thoroughbred horse world.
He has won multiple Sovereign awards as Ontario’s leading trainer.
I knew his reputation as a good horseman and a great ambassador of the sport.
So what could go wrong with our meeting? Lots.
That meeting happened two years ago.
It wasn’t a great time for horse racing in Ontario.
The province had just terminated the Slots At Racetracks Program (SARP).
As a result of the cancellation of SARP, the Woodbine Entertainment Group announced that the 153rd running of the Queen’s Plate in 2012 might be the last.
Horse racing in Ontario would be over.
The government asked three former ministers, John Wilkinson, Elmer Buchanan and myself, to meet with the industry and provide some advice.
We met with a lot of people. Most of them were not particularly happy.
At some point, Mark Casse sat down before us.
Mark is an American.
Many of his clients are wealthy Americans.
It seemed to me his presentation might be an embodiment of everything the critics of racing claim.
After all, why should Ontario taxpayers pay to support a hobby for rich Americans?
Turned out I was wrong.
Mark started his presentation by saying we shouldn’t worry about his future.
People at the top of the racing world can ply their trade at lots of tracks.
He went on to say his clients would be fine if horse racing ended in Ontario. Horses can move.
He asked us to focus our attention on the people who would suffer.
He talked about the exercise riders, hot walkers and grooms who would be out of a job if racing ended.
These are folks who can’t simply follow the horses.
Their livelihood depends on Ontario horse racing.
Mark didn’t talk about purses and races.
He spoke about the skill, dedication and passion of all the people who make a backstretch work.
He called them a family.
My colleagues and I went away from that meeting impressed with the concern the top folks in racing have for the people who love horses, but will never be in a win photo.
The province found a way to support the racing industry post-SARP. It wasn’t easy.
It took long, hard work from a lot of people in the horse racing industry and the unwavering support of Premier Kathleen Wynne, but the industry is now moving forward on a better footing.
Last Sunday, Mark was, once again, saddling his best three-year-olds to take a shot at winning the 155th running of the Queens Plate.
Despite his impressive record in other stakes races, the 50 Guineas that come with Canada’s greatest race have eluded him. Until this year.
Back in the dark days of 2012 not a lot of people were willing to gamble on the future of Ontario bred racehorses.
Ontario owner/trainer John Ross took a chance and bought a good-looking, Ontario bred filly from the yearling sale for a mere $5,500.
He named her after his granddaughter, Lexie Lou.
Turned out it was a good investment.
Lexie Lou won for John Ross as a two-year-old and last Sunday she thrilled thousands at Woodbine as she won again for her new owner, Gary Barber and trainer – you guessed it — Mark Casse.
Some might say this was Mark Casse’s greatest achievement.
But I believe his best performance was in that boardroom two years ago.