| Mark Casse, an eight-time Sovereign Award winner as Canada's outstanding trainer, notched his 2000th career win on Saturday when Reimburse captured the second race at Gulfstream Park.
Sent to post as the 8-5 mutuel favourite in the one-mile turf event, Reimburse, a Gabe Grossberg homebred, settled off the early pace under rider Tyler Gaffalione before unfurling an impressive stretch run for a comfortable score. He paid $5.20 to win.
“We're excited to be able win it with Gabe Grossberg; he's been a loyal owner for many years,” said Casse.
Casse won his first race as a trainer at Keeneland with Joe's Coming, his first starter, on April 14, 1979.
A 10-time leading trainer at Woodbine, the Indiana native's name is synonymous with success in Canadian racing having recently been elected to the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
Casse, who has horses based in Ontario, Florida and Kentucky, was keen to share the moment with his team. His assistant trainers include his son Norman in Kentucky, Jamie Begg at Gulfstream Park, as well as Kathryn Sullivan and David Adams at Woodbine.
“We have such a wonderful team. When we first started I was doing it all. I don't know how many times I drove the horse van to Churchill Downs,” said Casse. “Even now, I still have the same love that I have for the game and what I've tried to do with our team is go and find people that have the same passion.
“I think that's one of the things that make this so great,” continued Casse. “I work with a number of people who share that same passion.”
A truly family affair, Casse also wished to thank his wife, Tina, for her continued support.
“I couldn't do it without Tina. She makes sure everything works from a financial standpoint so I don't have to worry about that,” said Casse.
With 35 years in the game, it's a testament to Casse's continued growth as a trainer that 2015 was arguably his best year ever.
At Woodbine, Casse surpassed the $5-million mark in earnings for the fifth consecutive year, while recording his ninth straight training title and tenth overall, winning 80 races.
A banner 2015 for Casse also saw Catch a Glimpse burst onto the national scene in September with a victory in the Grade II Natalma Stakes, a Breeders' Cup Win & You're In event. She followed through on her promise by besting a field of 14 in the Grade I Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf to provide Casse with his first Breeders' Cup winner. Catch a Glimpse was named Canada's Horse of the Year for her efforts.
2015 was also a breakthrough season for turf darling, Tepin. The multiple graded stakes winning filly enjoyed a remarkable campaign, winning five of seven starts including the Grade I Breeders' Cup Mile, en route to Eclipse Award honours as Champion Grass Mare.
Casse again was quick to share the success with his team including those working at his farm in Ocala, Florida.
“Mitch Downs and Cindy Black have been with us 35 years and 25 years each. They're the ones behind the scenes that allow everyone to see these horses run and win,” said Casse. “A lot of people don't realize horses like Tepin were all broke and started at our farm and came up through our system. I'm very proud of that as well.”
While there are many great moments over Casse's 2000 career scores, one does stand out above the rest.
“It would have to be Tepin winning the Breeders' Cup Mile,” said Casse. “She didn't just beat the boys, she destroyed them. You saw my emotion when it happened and that was after 35 years of racing.
“And I have to say,” continued Casse. “The win by Catch a Glimpse the day before in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf was also huge.”
Tepin is expected to make her next start in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot with a follow-up date at Woodbine in September in consideration.
Casse's list of memorable horses is a lengthy one including four Horses of the Year in Canada – Catch a Glimpse (2015), Lexie Lou (2014), Uncaptured (2012) and Sealy Hill(2007), the only filly to win the Canadian Triple Tiara.
Other notable Casse runners include Grade I winners Dark Ending, Exciting Story, Pool Play, Spring in the Air, My Conquestadory and Noble Bird.