When Mark Casse was at Royal Ascot in 2016, he was supposed to meet Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, but didn’t. This time, the Hall of Fame trainer, who will send out two starters in Sunday’s Queen’s Plate, finally got his wish.
In the aftermath of superstar Tepin’s triumph in last year’s Queen Anne Stakes, Casse, who’ll be represented by King and His Court and State of Honor in this year’s edition of the Queen’s Plate, was told he would have an audience with the Queen.
Things, however, didn’t quite go as planned.
“I was supposed to meet with the Queen, but the press just kept me and kept me, so when I got out of there, I said, ‘When do I get to meet the Queen?’ They told me that I had missed her. I did a lot of interviews that day and one of the question was, ‘Who is the one person you most want to meet?’ I told them it was the Queen, but I missed her. They asked me if I would ever come back and I told them I would, but only if I get to meet the Queen.”
On June 23, Casse was back at Ascot, this time to watch the John Oxley-owned La Coronel contest the Group 1 Coronation Stakes.
While the son of Colonel John finished fifth, there was a silver lining for the man with 2,267 lifetime wins.
“Her representative came to our box and said, ‘The Queen wants to meet you.’ So we went and met her. I’ll never forget it. Mr. and Mrs. Oxley came and Tina (Casse’s wife) and Colby (his son) did as well. She’s a sweet, sweet lady.
“Colby said to me, ‘Dad, my legs were shaking.’ Of course, I probably talked too much, but it was a nice conversation. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life, I would say. It just never stops astonishing me of the people you can meet because of horses.”
So, now that Casse has been to London to see the Queen, he’s hoping to keep the royal theme going with a triumph in Sunday’s Queen’s Plate.
He’ll have two chances to win his second Plate. Lexie Lou delivered his first in 2014.
King and His Court, a four-time winner from 13 starts, comes into the Gallop for the Guineas with three lifetime stakes scores and $426,412 in purse earnings.
Gary Barber and Adam Wachtel own the son of Court Vision, who won the Wando Stakes on May 7 and was second in the Plate Trial on June 11.
“I thought his race in the Wando was good,” offered Casse. “I don’t think you saw the real King and His Court in the Plate Trial. At no point in time, to me, did he look happy. I thought Gary (jockey, Boulanger) was always having to ride him to be where he was. I was surprised he ran as well as he did. He seems to be much happier. Hopefully, there is going to be some speed in there.”
State of Honor, who contested this year’s Kentucky Derby (finishing 19th), is Casse’s other Plate hopeful.
The son of To Honor and Serve finished third in the Plate Trial. The bay, 1-4-3 in 12 starts, is owned by Conrad Farms and will be ridden by Patrick Husbands.
“He’s coming into this better than he went into the Plate Trial,” said trainer Mark Casse, of the career earner of $423,736. “He missed a little time after the Derby. He’s trained into this much better. It’s a question of how far he will go. He’s going to be up on the lead. We’ve found that’s the only way to do it, so we’ll see how far he can go.”
Plate Contenders on the Work Tab
Holy Helena, who will be looking to become the sixth Woodbine Oaks winner to repeat in the Queen’s Plate, tuned up for the race on Monday morning with a five-furlong breeze of 1:01.80, which equaled the fastest clocking of just six at the distance.
Coming onto the track at 8:00 a.m., Holy Helena had a fresh surface to work over following the harrowing break and looked smooth as silk under rider Luis Contreras.
“She went very well,” said Mike Doyle, racing manager for Stronach Stables, who is managing Holy Helena’s preparations for her New York-based conditioner Jimmy Jerkens.
“Luis and I both spoke to Jimmy; he was very pleased. She cooled out really nice; we’re all good.”
Woodbine clockers caught Holy Helena going her opening quarter in :25, three-eighths in :37, and galloping out six furlongs in 1:15.40 as Contreras barely moved a muscle.
Channel Maker, who returned to Saratoga and trainer Bill Mott following his second-place finish here in the May 28 Marine Stakes, had his final work for the Queen's Plate there Monday morning.
“He went in (:49.60) on the dirt, galloped out good, had a nice work,” said Mott. “He joined company and went by them, he went well. So, we’re happy.”
Channel Maker is owned by Joe Guerrieri (Joey Gee Thoroughbreds, who sold a half-interest to Adam Wachtel (Wachtel Stable) and Gary Barber after his third-place finish here in last year’s Summer Stakes on the grass.
The gelding was transferred to Mott at Gulfstream this winter and the Marine, which was his eighth career start, was his first on a surface other than turf.
Queen's Plate Festival Weather Forecast
According to Environment Canada, warm weather is on the way for the inaugural Queen's Plate Festival with a high of 24 degrees Celsius for Saturday's Canada Day card headlined by Canadian rockers Our Lady Peace, while the Sunday Queen's Plate card, featuring a live concert by the Goo Goo Dolls, boasts a high of 24 degrees Celsius and a mix of sun and cloud.
Early Look at the 158th Running of the Queen's Plate, July 2, Probable Field (12)
HORSE / JOCKEY / TRAINER / OWNER
Aurora Way / Julien Leparoux / Stu Simon / Chiefswood Stable
Channel Maker / Rafael Hernandez / Bill Mott / Joey Gee Thoroughbreds, Wachtel Stable & Gary Barber
Guy Caballero / Jose Ortiz / Catherine Day Phillips / Sean & Dorothy Fitzhenry
Holy Helena / Luis Contreras / James Jerkens / Stronach Stables
Inflexibility / Javier Castellano / Chad Brown / Klaravich Stables, Inc. & William H. Lawrence
King and His Court / Gary Boulanger / Mark Casse / Wachtel Stable & Gary Barber
Malibu Secret / Alan Garcia / Malcolm Pierce / Sam-Son Farm
Megagray / Jesse Campbell / Mike Keogh / Gustav Schickedanz
Spirit of Caledon / Jerome Lermyte / Pat Parente / Copper Water Thoroughbred Company Ltd., Centennial Farms (Niagara) Inc. & Pat Parente
State of Honor / Patrick Husbands / Mark Casse / Conrad Farms
Tiz a Slam / Eurico Da Silva / Roger Attfield / Chiefswood Stable
Watch Me Strut / David Moran / Catherine Day Phillips / Kingfield Racing Stable, Ltd. & George Philip Ledson
Source: Woodbine Communications