- Todd Pletcher (2/7)
- Mark Glatt (2/1)
- Bret Calhoun (1/25)
- Saffie Joseph Jr. (1/18)
- Jason Barkley (1/11)
- Linda Rice (1/10)
Up-and-coming trainer Norm Casse is making his presence known at Oaklawn.
He has a record of 17: 9-2-1 for the meet that started Dec. 9. His 53 percent win rate is highest at the meet except for two trainers who have gone 1-for-1. The wins include two stakes, the Poinsettia with Pretty Birdie and the American Beauty with Hot and Sultry.
“First and foremost, we've been very lucky,” Casse told Horse Racing Nation on Tuesday. “We've had a lot of good trips, a lot of really good rides from David (Cabrera) and Ricardo (Santana Jr.) that probably were difference makers in a handful of those races. But also there were probably two or three of those victories that we had that were probably horses that should have won last time at Churchill. So they had their conditions when they came down to Oaklawn. We've just had a lot of good luck, and things seem to be clicking right now.”
Casse, son of dual Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse and a third-generation horseman, provided an update on his top talent for the latest in HRN’s Barn Tour series.
Pretty Birdie. The 4-year-old Bird Song filly led from gate to wire in the Dec. 17 Poinsettia for her first win after three losses. After that win, he and John Hendrickson, husband of owner Mary Lou Whitney, “decided that we weren't going to run her four times at Oakland Park this year. So that basically ruled out us running in the four stakes that they offer for her particular division. So we decided to skip the American Beauty and freshen her up, so to speak, for the next two. So she's being pointed to the Carousel on (Feb.) 25. And she's doing extremely well right now.”
The Poinsettia was Pretty Birdie’s first start since a fifth-place finish in the Victory Ride (G3) in July.
“That was basically by design,” Casse said. “And it probably looks like we did it because she was injured in that race, because she ran so poorly in that race. But we were always going to give her time off after that race just to let her regroup a little bit, so to speak. And it ended up being a little longer than we wanted it to be, because there were no races that would come up that she would fit. So at some point or another we saw that they made that race, the Poinsettia at Oaklawn, and we just decided to wait and point to that.”
Hot and Sultry. The 4-year-old daughter of Speightster has a record of 5: 3-2-0. Casse said she came out of the American Beauty well. “There's two options with her, she'll either come back and face Pretty Birdie in the Carousel, or we've always thought that she's a two-turn horse, she just moves that way. Her temperament suggests that she's a two-turn horse, because although she's fast, she's very kind and ratable. Watching her train in the morning and get up in the morning and breeze, she just acts like a two-turn horse. So there's an outside chance that she'll run in the Azeri on the 11th of March at Oaklawn. But that's going to be a pretty salty test, because that's where all the big shooters are going to end up. So we're just going to have to just wait and see what we do with Hot and Sultry next.”
Powder River. The 6-year-old daughter of Mineshaft had finished in the money for 10 starts before coming in fifth in the Bayakoa (G3) on Saturday. “Powder River was kind of disappointing this weekend in the Bayakoa. I really felt like that was more my fault than her fault. The decision going into the race was to take a hold of her early and hope that there was a pace meltdown in front of us so we could hit the board in a graded stakes to make her value as a broodmare go up. Instead of just sending her like we have been and letting her get brave on the lead. We changed her tactics, and that was my idea, and I feel bad about that. But you live and your learn. I don't know where Powder River will end up next. We're just going to regroup and try to find an easier spot, like an overnight stakes somewhere probably on the East Coast somewhere.”
Easy Action. The Speightstown colt broke his maiden Jan. 28 at Oaklawn, winning by 1 3/4 lengths at six furlongs. “(Co-owner) Alex Lieblong and I have decided that we're going to try stretching him out at least one time just to make sure that we don't miss something potentially big there. So he'll come back in an allowance race, hopefully on the 18th at Oaklawn, running two turns there.”
Effortlesslyelgant. The Liam’s Map filly broke her maiden on second try by 4 3/4 lengths. “The idea was always to stretch her out,” Casse said. “Like Easy Action, the jury's still out whether or not he wants to do that. I really believe Effortlesslyelgant is a two-turn horse, so she'll either come back in the allowance race at Oaklawn, or I think the next stakes is the Honeybee (G3) at Oaklawn.”
Tough Legacy. The daughter of Hard Spun broke her maiden Friday with a five-length win at Oaklawn after finishing no better than sixth her first three starts. “I was very impressed. I think it shocked a lot of people that she won the way she did. But if you went back and legitimately watched her previous starts, she was compromised every time. So every race that she ran in was a complete throw-out, in my opinion. And when she broke her maiden last weekend, that was more of a true indication of what she can do. I was very, very happy with it. Just finally getting a trip that we could show her off, so to speak. But I like to be conservative. So some people would go ahead and throw her to the deep end of the pool, but I don't like doing that. I'd rather take our conditions if we can. So hopefully, there'll be an allowance race at Oaklawn that she can run in.”