11,006 1,737 1,602 1,434 $89,331,868 16 % 45 %
648 109 110 86 $8,941,597 17 % 45 %

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%

Veteran trainer Mark Casse still chasing first Breeders’ Cup victory

by Dan Ralph

In July, Lexie Lou earned trainer Mark Casse his first Queen's Plate victory. On Saturday, another filly will be his best chance to capture an elusive Breeders' Cup title.

Conquest Eclipse, the early 4-1 second pick, will break from the No. 4 post in the Grade 1 US$2-million Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. Multiple Breeders' Cup champion Corey Nakatani returns aboard after leading the two-year-old to second- and third-place finishes in her last two races, both Grade 1 events.

For Casse, Canada's top trainer on six occasions, celebrating in the winner's circle at Santa Anita would provide a second career milestone this year. On July 6, Lexie Lou's captured a stirring 1 1/2-length Plate win at Woodbine Racetrack.

"I've been doing this since I was a little boy ... I owned my first horse when I was eight," Casse said from California on Thursday. "The Breeders' Cup is the Olympics so it means everything to me as far as horse racing goes.

"We were fortunate this year to win the Queen's Plate, something that had been very difficult to do. You go to the Breeders' Cup as the best in your region and you're up against the best in the world. It's very exciting."

Casse, 53, will saddle four Breeders Cup starters, including Ontario-breds Conquest Typhoon (Juvenile Turf), Conquest Harlanate (Juvenile Fillies Turf) and Woodbine Mile runner-up Kaigun (Mile). Patrick Husbands, seven times Canada's top jockey, rides all three Canadian horses with Conquest Typhoon and Conquest Harlanate running Friday.

"That says a lot about Canadian racing," Casse said. "Also, Patrick is a world-class rider, he can ride with anybody.

"All four are equal and good horses. I think people will be surprised. I'm not much on predicting, I usually let my horses do the talking but I feel confident they're all going to run well."

Casse said Husbands is bullish on Conquest Typhoon, a 12-1 pick that will break from the No. 6 post Friday. Conquest Typhoon qualified for the Juvenile Turf by winning the Grade 2 Summer Stakes last month at Woodbine.

"Our feeling is he's superior on grass," Casse said. "Of course, he hasn't faced the competition that he's going to run against (Friday) but I thought when he won the Summer Stakes he did so with ease."

Unlike last year, Casse isn't concerned about the post positions his four horses drew. Kaigun will start the Grade 1 $2-million Mile from the No. 7 post at early 20-1 odds while Conquest Harlanate, a 10-1 pick, drew the No. 11 post in the $1-million Juvenile Fillies Turf.

In 2013, Casse's My Conquestadory got the outside No. 14 post for the Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita. Casse was so disappointed he considered scratching her from the field but relented and the horse finished fourth.

"That (drawing No. 14 post) probably cost us the Breeders' Cup," he said. "This year we were very fortunate, probably the only horse that caught just a little bit of a tough post was Harlanate and (No. 11) isn't that bad."

As important as winning this weekend is to Casse, he also looks forward to enjoying the spectacle that is the Breeders' Cup and being a fan at racing's premiere event. For example, Casse conducted a portion of Thursday's phone interview while actress Bo Derek petted one of his horses.

"Now, I'd like to be in The Classic and I'd like to be in the Juvenile," Casse said. "But there's a part of me that likes being able to sit back and just watch the races."

At the '10 Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, Blame beat Zenyatta by a head to hand the brilliant mare her first — and only — defeat after 19 straight victories.

"I remember being in the stands with my wife and we were screaming and everybody around us was screaming for her down the stretch," Casse said. "I said to somebody, 'I've never screamed harder for a horse that wasn't mine.'

"But the other thing is we all love our sport. As much as we'd love to win, making sure all running the races do so safely is very important as well."

Notes: After finishing last as the 3-2 favourite in last month's $300,000 Grade II Canadian Stakes turf race at Woodbine, Lexie Lou earned a 1 1/4-length win in the $100,000 Autumn Miss Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita. It was the Plate and Woodbine Oaks champion's seventh victory in 15 career starts and boosted her earnings past $1.36 million. 

Canadian filly Lexie Lou scores in Autumn Miss

 Lexie Lou, Canada’s star filly, became a California girl on Saturday, winning her first American start in the $101,250 Autumn Miss Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita.

Barbara D. Livingston
Lexie Lou, winner of the Queen's Plate earlier this year, delivers as the favorite under Corey Nakatani in the Autumn Miss.

Lexie Lou won the Queen’s Plate against males in July, and two other stakes in the summer, but finished last of 10 in the Grade 2 Canadian International against older fillies and mares at Woodbine on Sept. 14.

That performance was largely forgotten when Lexie Lou rallied from sixth in a field of 10 to win the Grade 3 Autumn Miss  by 1 1/4 lengths over Diversy Harbor. A slight favorite, Lexie Lou ($8.40) ran a mile on turf in 1:33.70.

The Autumn Miss was jockey Corey Nakatani’s first stakes win of the autumn meeting.

“She showed me what she is,” Nakatani said. “She’s got the right style and has a high cruising speed. There were some questions going into this race. We thought a tight turf course would help her.”

Lexie Lou was about six lengths behind pacesetter Zindaya, who set early fractions of 23.24 and 46.22 seconds through the first half-mile. Lexie Lou was fifth with a quarter-mile remaining, but advanced to third at the eighth pole.

She took the lead with an impressive rally, and was kept alert by Nakatani through the stretch.

“I knew they were coming,” Nakatani said. “I gave her a couple of reminders to go about her business and she did.”

Diversy Harbor, a minor stakes winner here last March, finished a half-length in front of Zindaya, who made her stakes debut having won consecutive starts in New York since late August.

Sheza Smoke Show was fourth, followed by Thegirlinthatsong, Tiz Kissable, Famous Alice, Alexis Tangier, On the Backstreets,  and Wonderfully.

Lexie Lou, by Sligo Bay, races for Gary Barber and trainer Mark Casse. The filly has won 7 of 15 starts and $1,369,714. Casse said earlier this week that he hoped to use the Autumn Miss  as a prep for the $300,000 Matriarch Stakes over a mile on turf at Del Mar on Nov. 30. The Grade 1 Matriarch  was previously run at Hollywood Park, which closed last December.

Lexie Lou is the first Queen’s Plate winner to race at Santa Anita since Alydeed finished 13th in the 1993 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. She is the first Queen’s Plate winner to race in Southern California since Inglorious finished third in the Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood Park in 2012.


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.