11,921 1,904 1,746 1,569 $102,127,172 16 % 45 %
2015 to September 1
705 121 110 98 $9,859,708 17 % 45 %

Casse sends out five winners on opening weekend
 Marty McGee, DRF
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Mark Casse has won the Sovereign Award for the top trainer in Canada a remarkable seven times, but that’s not the whole story. All of North America now seems to be his domain, and that includes Keeneland, where the 54-year-old Indianapolis native enjoyed a fall-meet opening weekend he won’t soon forget.

Casse sent out five winners from 11 starters over the three-day weekend as he pursues his second training title at Keeneland, where he has been kicking around since he was a teenager.

Two winners came in FallStars stakes as Tepin crushed the opposition Saturday in the Grade 1 First Lady and Airoforce outfooted 13 other 2-year-olds Sunday in the Grade 3 Bourbon.

“Going in, I thought we might have a good weekend, but you never think it’ll turn out as well as it did,” said Casse, the leading trainer at the 2014 spring meet.

With major clients such as John Oxley, Robert Masterson, Gary Barber, and Brad Kelley supplying him with well-bred stock, Casse has extended his reach to all corners of the racing map. Besides his home base at Woodbine in Canada, he also has been very active in recent years in Kentucky, Florida, New York, and Southern California.

Casse learned the horse business from his father, Norm, a prominent bloodstock agent who conducted a lot of business at Keeneland and now is retired in Florida. Mark Casse has been passing along his expertise to his son Norman, the second of his seven children. Norman Casse has assumed an increasingly prominent role as top assistant in the powerhouse stable.

“I was telling Norman the other day how I’ve been walking through this paddock for 35 years and how special it is to have your horses run well here,” said Mark Casse.

Airoforce adds to Casse’s list of Breeders’ Cup prospects by winning Bourbon
 Nicole Russo, DRF
With the Breeders' Cup looming at the end of October, trainer Mark Casse continued to add to his arsenal, as Airoforce won the Grade 3, $250,000 Bourbon Stakes, with stablemate Siding Spring finishing  third, continuing the barn's red-hot start to Keeneland's fall meet.
Keeneland/Coady Photography
Airoforce earns a berth to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf by winning the Bourbon Stakes under Julien Leparoux.

With the victory, Airoforce ($12) earned an automatic berth to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, to be contested at the Lexington track in less than four weeks. It was the fifth victory in the first three days of the meet for Casse, with three of those coming with 2-year-olds.

"We felt like coming in we were bringing some live horses but you never can predict this kind of success," Casse said.

Airoforce, owned by John Oxley,  and Siding Spring, owned by Gabe Grossberg, were workmates over the summer at Churchill Downs as Casse targeted a fall debut at Kentucky Downs for both.

"We left these two horses at Churchill over the summer," Casse said. "Jamie Begg, who is our assistant there, did a great job getting them ready.”

Casse recalled telling Oxley,  'We're gonna run him at Kentucky Downs, I think he's really gonna run well.'."

Airoforce won his debut, going six furlongs, by 3 1/4 lengths on Sept. 5 at Kentucky Downs. Eleven days later, it was Siding Spring's turn, as he won by six lengths going a mile. On the strength of his performance, Airoforce was sent off as a tepid favorite in a wide-open field of 14 for the Bourbon, despite stretching out from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles.

Under Julien Leparoux, Airoforce settled in the second flight of horses to track the pace four wide early, as Argot and California invader Hot Ore took the field through an opening half-mile  of 47.67 seconds. Airoforce and Siding Spring both began to rally around the far turn, and sat second and third off of Hot Ore with slightly more than  a quarter-mile remaining. Airoforce wrested command with a furlong to go and edged clear steadily in the final stages, hitting the wire 2 1/2 lengths in front. His final time for the 1 1/16 miles on turf officially rated yielding after a good deal of rain last week was 1:44.12.

Camelot Kitten, making his stakes debut off an impressive debut victory at Belmont, rallied to edge Siding Spring by a half-length for second. 

Casse indicated after the race that both Airoforce and Siding Spring would run back in the Juvenile Turf,, giving him a trio of prospects for that race, along with Conquest Daddyo, who earned an automatic berth in winning the Grade 2 Summer Stakes at Woodbine.

Tepin leaves no doubt in First Lady Stakes
 Nicole Russo, DRF
Tepin wasn’t getting beat any noses today.
Keeneland/Coady Photography
Tepin, ridden by Juien Leparoux, wins the First Lady Stakes by seven lengths Saturday.

The filly, who endured two heartbreakingly narrow defeats at the hands of rallying rivals at Saratoga over the summer, drew clear in the stretch for an emphatic seven-length victory in the Grade 1, $400,000 First Lady Stakes on Saturday at Keeneland.

“About the eighth pole, I was looking for somebody to come running,” trainer Mark Casse said. “She’s lost such tough ones.”

After the race, Casse reiterated that Tepin’s next start will come in the Breeders’ Cup Mile against males, as opposed to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, feeling that the Mile will suit her better than the 1 3/16-mile distance of the Filly and Mare Turf. Tepin’s two Grade 1 victories, in the First Lady and the Just a Game at Belmont, came at a mile.

“A mile’s her game,” Casse said. “We’d already talked about it. I think the Mile makes the most sense, and hey, we know she likes Keeneland.”

Julien Leparoux guided Tepin ($5.40), who broke from the outside post in the field of 11, over to the 4 path to save some ground into the first turn, tracking the moderate pace set by Cara Marie. Tepin began ranging up on the leader on the far turn and assumed command entering the stretch. From there, the outcome was never in doubt, as she drew clear under a hand ride.

The final time on the course rated soft was 1:37.04.

“One thing about her, she runs on every turf course that you throw at her,” Casse said. “She sure cherished it today. I think she was sharper than ever. When I put Julien on her, I said, ‘Hang on, she is fired up.’ ”

Crowley’s Law, who had tracked Cara Marie and Tepin in third early, held well for second, while My Miss Sophia rallied for third.

Tepin has blossomed this year to become one of the standout turf females in the country, winning the Just a Game and the Grade 2 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile to go with her two narrow beats at Saratoga. She pushed her career earnings past $1.3 million with the win Saturday.

Tepin is entered for the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall select mixed sale the day after the Breeders’ Cup. However, Casse said owner Robert Masterson has indicated that the filly could scratch from the sale to run another year.

“I think that was just in case something were to happen, but the indication from Mr. Masterson is that as long as she’s happy and healthy, she’ll continue to run another year,” Casse said.