11,006 1,737 1,602 1,434 $89,331,868 16 % 45 %
749 130 127 104 $10,197,272 17 % 45 %

California Chrome, Lexie Lou could meet on grass
Jay Privman, DRF
 The biggest race in the United States is the Kentucky Derby. The biggest race in Canada is the Queen’s Plate. So, if the winners of those two races met at Del Mar, that certainly would make it the biggest race this track has had in a long time.

Anticipation is already building here over the announcement earlier in the week that California Chrome is scheduled to make his grass debut in the Grade 1, $300,000 Hollywood Derby on Nov. 29. And there’s a very good chance that his rivals could include the filly Lexie Lou, who beat males in the Queen’s Plate and most recently won the Autumn Miss Stakes on turf at Santa Anita.

Lexie Lou also is eligible for the Grade 1, $300,000 Matriarch Stakes for older females Nov. 30, closing day here. But on Friday at Del Mar, her trainer, Mark Casse, said he’s leaning toward running in the Hollywood Derby.

Both races are on grass, the Hollywood Derby at 1 1/8 miles, the Matriarch at a flat mile.

“I’m leaning toward the Hollywood Derby, but ultimately, it’ll be up to Gary,” Casse said, referring to owner Gary Barber. “I always like to keep my horses in their age group if I can. I have great respect for California Chrome, but I have great respect for Lexie Lou, too. For racing, it would be a great thing.”

Lexie Lou is stabled here at Del Mar, where Casse brought the bulk of his West Coast-based horses.

“The horses are happy here, and I’m happy, more relaxed,” Casse said.

California Chrome is stabled 1 1/2 hours north of here at Los Alamitos.

Lexie Lou has won seven times in 15 starts and is 4 for 7 this year. California Chrome has won eight times in 15 starts and is 5 for 8 this year. Unlike Lexie Lou, he has never raced on turf.

Ol’ Fashion Gal eyes Durante

Casse sent out Ol’ Fashion Gal to a victory on turf against maidens Thursday. Not long after the winner’s-circle ceremonies were completed, he nominated her to the Grade 3, $150,000 Jimmy Durante Stakes for 2-year-old fillies on Nov. 29. He couldn’t afford to wait. Nominations closed Thursday night.

“It’s probably a little close back, but I nominated her just in case,” Casse said.

Casse said his most likely runner in the Durante is Conquest Harlanate, who finished 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last time out. She’s a two-time graded stakes winner at Woodbine.

Casse hopes the Force is with him

Casse’s lone starter Sunday at Del Mar is Force, a colt by Flatter who is making his debut in race 3, a six-furlong race for 2-year-olds that drew seven runners, including five making their first starts.

Force was part of a large contingent of 2-year-olds Casse brought west this year, but he shows a two-month gap in his works, from July 9 at Churchill Downs until Sept. 13 at Barretts Sales and Racing in Pomona, Calif.

“When he flew out here, he got really sick for two or three weeks,” Casse said.

Since going back into training, Force shows a steady work pattern of eight drills, including a five-furlong move in 1:00.80 from the gate at Del Mar last Sunday.

His rivals include Steam Play, a first-timer by Stroll trained and co-owned by Bob Baffert, and Blue Law, who makes his debut for the powerful Del Mar duo of trainer Bob Hess Jr. and jockey Kent Desormeaux.

Dynamic Sky scores first turf victory in Red Smith Handicap

Dynamic Sky, winless in five graded stakes at Woodbine this year, broke through for his first career victory on the grass in Saturday’s 55th running of the $250,000 Red Smith Handicap, the final graded turf stakes of the season in New York.

Dynamic Sky raced in the middle of the pack for nearly a mile, found a seam along the rail in mid-stretch under Cornelio Velasquez, and slipped through inside of Legendary to grab the lead. In doing so, he got the jump on Big Blue Kitten, who had finished two lengths ahead of him when second best in the Grade 1 Canadian International last month.

Dynamic Sky, who carried 120 pounds while in receipt of three pounds from the top-weighted Big Blue Kitten, paid $14.20 to win as the third choice in a field of 10.

“I had a good trip,” said Velasquez. “I saved ground the whole way, and I had a lot of horse at the quarter pole. I asked, and he gave me everything.”

Dynamic Sky ran 1 3/8 miles in 2:18.85 on a yielding course. The $150,000 winner’s share boosted his earnings to $938,797 for owner John Oxley and trainer Mark Casse.

“He got a great trip today, and everything seemed to come together for him,” said assistant trainer Kathryn Sullivan. “He didn’t have the best start in the International, which put him behind in the race, but today, everything went exactly as planned. Cornelio took him off the pace a little bit and had him sitting perfectly. When that hole opened, he just went on through and had a ton of horse. It was perfect. You couldn’t ask for a better trip.”

Big Blue Kitten wasn’t as lucky. The 4-5 favorite trailed to the top of the stretch and finished strongly after weaving through heavy traffic beneath Joel Rosario to take second over the 39-1 outsider Margano.

Legendary surged past Micromanage to take command on the third turn, led to a furlong out, and faded to wind up fifth as the 7-2 second choice.

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.

Mississippi Delta wins stakes debut in Glorious Song

Mississippi Delta proved a punctual choice in her stakes debut in Saturday’s $128,750 Glorious Song for 2-year-old fillies, giving trainer Mark Casse his third straight Woodbine stakes win.

Michael Burns
Mississippi Delta won her stakes debut Saturday in the Glorious Song Stakes at Woodbine.

After breaking from the rail, Mississippi Delta ($4.10) raced outside in fourth before angling to the rail on the turn in the seven-furlong sprint. She went back outside for the drive and rallied to prevail by two lengths over the 8-1 outsider Roaming in a quick time of 1:22.17.

Pankhurst set moderate fractions before fading to third, while Indiantown Sunrise wound up fourth after a miscue at the start.

Patrick Husbands rode Mississippi Delta, who banked $75,000 for owners Mike Rutherford and Jackpot Ranch.

“I got a perfect trip,” Husbands said. “When I reached the half-mile, I realized the guys were too wide, so I went back to the inside. I knew I was on much the best horse.”