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Exclusive Love Hopes Grass is Greener at GP

Gulfstream Park
Photo: MEC
A cursory glance at the past-performance lines of Exclusive Love might lead handicappers to assume that she is a filly with a history of physical problems. The many gaps between her races, though, have nothing to do with soundness and everything to do with weather.

“She’s The Rainmaker,” said trainer Mark Casse, explaining Exclusive Love’s inconsistent racing schedule.

The 5-year-old daughter of Bernstein, weather permitting, is scheduled to run in Saturday’s $100,000 Marshua’s River (G3) over the Gulfstream Park turf course.

“The filly’s owner, Robert Masterson, has to be the most patient guy there is. We were thinking of renting her out to anywhere that needed rain, like Texas. I think 10 times when we had her entered in a race, it rained and the race came off the grass and we had to scratch her,” Casse said. “That’s why you see all the time between her races. It’s all because of races being taken off the grass.”

Last winter at Gulfstream, Casse didn’t scratch Exclusive Love from an off-the-turn allowance race that was run over a sloppy track. The Irish-bred mare struggled so much that it would be her last appearance on a main track, and unfortunately, there were many opportunities.

“She’s never been out of training, other than after her 2-year-old year. When you see the gaps, it’s all because races she was in came off the turf. I’ve never had a horse –and I’ve been training for 35 years – get in and have to be scratched so many times because races were taken off the grass,” Casse said.

Exclusive Love demonstrated enough ability at Woodbine during her 3-year-old year that Casse sent her to Saratoga for the Lakes George Stakes (G2).  Forced to race wide after breaking from an outside post position, Exclusive Love made the lead in the stretch, only to relinquish it by three quarters of a length at the finish to Perfect Shirl, who would go on to win this year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Compromised by an oft-interrupted schedule, it took Exclusive Love six more starts to find the winner’s circle, capturing an allowance race at Churchill Downs in her most recent start on Nov. 9.

“It’s very difficult to train a horse like her when you never know when she’s going to be able to run,” Casse said. “We were going to run her at Keeneland, but she didn’t get in. The race ended up overfilling. So she missed some time and trying to enter her. Finally, we went into the Churchill race at probably 75 percent. We didn’t feel like she was at her best, which I was impressed with.”

Casse is hoping for blue skies and a repeat effort in the Marshua’s River.
“She’s training well at Palm Meadows,” he said, “so I would expect her to give us a big performance.”

Although he has no intention of ever running Exclusive Love on dirt, Casse has hopes that Delightful Mary will show herself to be a strong main-track performer in Sunday’s $60,000 Ocala, a mile stakes for Florida-bred fillies and mares. Although the 4-year-old daughter of Limehouse has won four of six races over synthetic racing surfaces, she made a strong showing in her only dirt appearance while finishing third in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs.

“The Juvenile Fillies ended up to be a pretty good race when you look at Awesome Feather and R Heat Lightning,” said Casse of the two fillies that finished in front of Delightful Mary in the Breeders Cup.

Delightful Mary made a wide move on the turn and held position through the stretch-run.

“We have some questions about how far this filly wants to go, but she did run well in the Breeders’ Cup going a mile and a sixteenth. So the mile shouldn’t be a problem,” Casse said.

Delightful Mary is coming off a sharp allowance victory over Woodbine’s Polytrack surface on Nov. 17.

“It’s very different for Polytrack horses at Gulfstream. So I can only judge by Churchill Downs, where she trained well, and the way she ran in the Breeders’ Cup,” Casse said. “At Palm Meadows, she’s breezed very well there. I don’t really have any concerns. I think she’ll handle the track just fine. I feel like I’ve got enough work in her over the dirt that she’ll be just fine.”

If Delightful Mary runs well in the Ocala, she is likely to return in the $300,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream on Jan. 28.

 

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