Woodbine: Casse a Very Busy Man Sunday

June 12, 2015 10:21am
There’s busy and then there’s really busy.  On Sunday, Mark Casse, a seven-time Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s top trainer, will be at Woodbine to put the tack on five horses in the $150,000 Plate Trial, then come right back for an encore a half-hour later when sending out four fillies in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser.

Last year Casse won both the Oaks (for a third time, following Kimchi in 2006 and Sealy Hill in 2007) and the Queen’s Plate (for the first time) with filly Lexie Lou.

There’s 13 horses in the Plate Trial, and the two favourites, Danzig Moon (5-2, Julien Leparoux) and Conquest Curlinate (7-2, Shaun Bridgmohan), are both trained by him.  His other hopefuls are Battleofburlington (20-1), Conquest Boogaloo (20-1) and Field of Courage (15-1).

John Oxley’s Danzig Moon was battle-tested this spring on the Kentucky Derby/Triple Crown trail, finishing fourth, then second to Carpe Diem in the Tampa Bay Derby and Blue Grass Stakes, respectively.   Then the son of Malibu Moon tried the Kentucky Derby, finishing an excellent fifth, before a sixth place effort over a very sloppy Pimlico Racetrack in the Preakness on May 16, his last outing. 

“His race in the Derby was very good.  He got knocked around, how he stayed standing is beyond me.  And then to only get beat six lengths by American Pharoah, that says something,” said Casse.  “This is a good horse.  It’s just about how he handles the synthetic.   I don’t know (if he can) but no reason to think that he can’t.  If we didn’t think he handled it well (on Sunday), we would probably skip the Queen’s Plate and just go right to the Prince of Wales (the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, July 28 on dirt at Fort Erie).”

About Conquest Curlinate, a grey son of two-time U.S. Horse of the Year Curlin, owned by Ernie Semersky and Dory Newell of Conquest Stables, Casse added, “I’m a little more confident with him as far as the synthetic is concerned.   He trained last fall at Woodbine.   I thought his first start, even though he was unplaced (finishing fifth yet only two lengths behind the winner), was really good.   If you watch it, it was a short race (six furlongs).  He gets running late but (jockey) Patrick (Husbands) had nowhere to go, but he galloped out strong.   I feel pretty confident that he’ll be fine.  He’s faced some good horses himself. They can’t write’em (races) far enough for him.”

Conquest Curlinate has really blossomed since breaking his maiden at Oaklawn Park in January.  He finished a nose behind Whiskey Ticket in the Grade 3 Illinois Derby on April 18 at Hawthorne, then most recently was a closing second again, just a length behind Madefromlucky in the Grade 2, mile and one-eighth Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park on May 9.  He was being pointed to the Belmont Stakes on June 6 before his connections decided instead to focus on the Plate Trial and Queen’s Plate, which will be contested on July 5.

Battleofburlington, like Danzig Moon, is owned by John Oxley and is lightly-raced with only two starts, breaking his maiden at first asking on April 26, before a dull seventh place finish on May 24 in an allowance sprint.

“We were trying to run in an allowance race on Sunday.  I thought about running Battleofburlington there or Danzig Moon but the race didn’t go.  So I put them both in (the Plate Trial).  He’s a talented horse.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he runs really well.   I think probably Jesse Campbell will ride him.”

For the Oaks, Casse’s hopefuls in the field of 10 are Galina Point (6-1, John Velazquez) and Shez a Masterpiece (15-1, Eurico Rosa da Silva), both owned by Gary Barber, along with Season Ticket (8-1, Patrick Husbands) and maiden Tancook (20-1, Gary Boulanger).  No maiden has ever won the Oaks in its 59 previous runnings.

Last year, Barber and Casse teamed to win the Oaks with Lexie Lou, who had been purchased from owner-trainer John Ross two months earlier.

“All our horses are doing well.  We think we have a chance, we just need some luck,” Casse said.   “Last year, Lexie Lou and Wild Catomine (his 1-2 Oaks finishers) both had come off good races.  I never get overconfident in any race.  I just know, after 35 years, anything’s possible.  It’s unfortunate (that all of my horses) come from off the pace.  And the horse to beat (London Tower) has got speed, but it is a mile and one-eighth so that helps.”


Ron Clarkson's Philanthropist homebred Phil's Cocktail arrives at Sunday's 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial with a lot of training miles under his belt under the guidance of conditioner John LeBlanc Jr.

"He's really matured a lot. He was quite a kid as a two-year-old, always messing around and being a handful," said LeBlanc Jr. "This year he came in knowing his job, really settled in nicely and is very professional. We've been putting on a lot of miles which has made him a lot more mellow, getting his fitness where we need him to be to go the distance.  We're not seeing that sharpness as the kid that he was, now he's more of an athlete with lots of miles under him and well behaved."

The talented bay finished second in his July debut to Super Colerosa in a key maiden allowance event and came right back to graduate travelling six furlongs over the Woodbine 'Poly' on August 4.

Trying stakes company for the first time, jockey David Moran sent Phil's Cocktail to the lead battling rival Super Colerosa through a swift half in :45.06, putting away his nemesis, before drawing off to a 2 1/2-length score in a sharp 1:16.78.

Following a fourth-place run in the Bull Page Stakes, Phil's Cocktail tried a successful off-the-pace effort in the seven furlong Frost King Stakes and won 2 1/4-lengths. He ended his campaign with a good effort in the Kingarvie Stakes on December 6, finishing second to Kingsport, while trying two turns for the first time.

On paper, the bay gelding's sophomore debut on May 2, a seventh-place effort in the Queenston Stakes won by winter-trained Plate Trial rival R U Watchingbud, was the least impressive result of his career so far. However, there were valid excuses.

"We knew we were behind. He had a hoof issue at the end of the year, we came in late and the weather was not ideal and other horses were racing fit," explained LeBlanc Jr. "We were a little behind but that race was our stepping stone and he ran as we expected him to run."

The Ontario-sired Phil's Cocktail will take a step up in class in Sunday's Trial, but LeBlanc Jr. is quietly confident in his stable star.

"He's a classy horse. He adjusts to everything very well and loves the competition," he said. "What's nice about this horse is that he's very relaxed. You can put him where you need him to be and he'll cruise, it's just a matter of what kick we have a left at the end."

The weather forecast for Woodbine Oaks day in Toronto is a mix of sun and cloud with a high of 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit).

Source: Woodbine Communications Office


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