Barn Tour: Mark Casse gears up for Saratoga

Mark Casse is having a pretty typical Mark Casse kind of year.

He’s at the top of the Woodbine trainer standings, with about twice as many wins and twice as much earnings as the next guys. He has had eight graded-stakes wins this year with seven horses.

And on Monday, he was at a rainy Saratoga preparing for Thursday’s opening day.

One wrinkle in Casse’s smooth operation has been with Wonder Wheel, last year’s champion 2-year-old filly after wins in the Grade 1 Alcibiades and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile fillies. After failing to win in four starts this year, she retired last week.

“It was disappointing,” Casse told Horse Racing Nation on Monday. “But I just didn’t feel comfortable with continuing. She obviously doesn’t want to do it anymore. Something’s bothering her. She owes us nothing. So we decided to retire her.”

The daughter of Into Mischief had bone bruising, he said, “but they all have some bone bruising. It just affects some more than others. She definitely wasn’t traveling as well as she used to.”

But Casse, a 13-time winner of the Sovereign Award as Canada’s top trainer and a two-time Eclipse winner, has plenty of other stakes horses in waiting. He provided an update for HRN’s Barn Tour series.

Webslinger. The 3-year-old son of Constitution was fourth in the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) after a bumpy ride Saturday after two stakes wins at Churchill Downs, including the American Turf (G2). “He ran tremendous (in the Belmont Derby).” Casse said “Kind of got shuffled back, got a real wide trip. I would bet when the Thoro-Graph and Ragozin numbers come out, he probably had the best in the race.” His next start will be in the Saratoga Derby Invitational.

Papilio. The 3-year-old Ireland-bred filly won the Appalachian (G2) in April but has finished fourth, second in two graded stakes, and third Saturday in the Belmont Oaks Invitational 9g1). “She ran tremendous. She stumbled at the start. I thought we had some tough racing luck this weekend. She’s going to aim for the Saratoga Oaks.”

Get Smokin. The 6-year-old gelding by Get Stormy was second in his last two starts, the Wise Dan (G2) and Arlington (G3). Casse has not chosen a spot for his next start.

Fev Rover. The 5-year-old mare, who began her career in Europe, won the Nassau (G2) on July 1 in her first start in nearly nine months. Casse was awaiting her arrival Monday at Saratoga, where she will run in the Diana (G1) on Saturday.

Sugar Treat. The 2-year-old Enticed filly caught the favorite, Escape Room, in the final strides to win her June 10 debut at Gulfstream. “Sugar Treat runs on Thursday (in the Schuylerville, G3), and hopefully she likes the slop. She’s training very well. … She overcame a lot in her maiden win. I don’t know too many horses would overcome what she overcame. And then more importantly the filly she beat came back and won impressively. So it looks like it was a strong field.”

My Boy Prince. The 2-year-old son of Cairo Prince broke his maiden at Woodbine last month in his second try. He was listed as a probable for the Sanford (G2) at Saratoga this weekend, but Casse said that’s not the plan. “To me, he is one of my summer horses,” with a goal of the Summer (G1), a Breeders’ Cup qualifier at Woodbine in September. “I’m just going to take my time with him, try to stretch him out.”

Filo Di Arianna. The 7 year-old son of Drosselmeyer has finished second in both starts this year, first by a half-length in an optional-claiming allowance and then by a neck to Emmanuel last out in the Poker (G3) at Belmont. Named Canada’s top male sprinter and top male turf horse of 2022, he’ll run this weekend in the Kelso (G3) at Saratoga. “He ran very well his last start there at Belmont,” Casse said. Noting that the forecast calls for rain, he said “Filo would only run if it stayed on the turf.”

Ice Chocolat. The 5-year-old son of Goldikovic is 0-for-4 this year, finishing sixth last out in the Jaipur (G1) and second before that in the Jacques Cartier (G3) at Woodbine. He also is pointed to the Kelso, Casse said, and probably would run if it comes off the turf.

Our Flash Drive. The 5-year-old Ghostzapper mare has won three straight graded stakes at Woodbine, most recently the Royal North (G2). Her next start will come in the Caress (G3) on July 22 at Saratoga.

Boppy O. The 3-year-old son of Bolt d’Oro was in the money for four straight starts this year before finishing 11th in the Belmont Derby. “He twisted a shoe in the race. And he’s got a foot bruise. So we’re going to see. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with him just yet. Got to give him a few days to kind of re-evaluate how he is and make a decision.” One possibility is the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2) on Aug. 4.

Strong Quality. The 4-year-old Quality Road colt won two straight before finishing fifth in the Manhattan (G1). Possibilities for his next start are the Arlington Million (G1) at Colonial Downs on Aug. 12 and the Bowling Green (G2) at Saratoga on July 30.

Talbeyah. The 5-year-old daughter of Lope de Vega, who got her start in England, is 0-for-3 this year and probably will start in the Glens Falls (G2) at Saratoga.

Classic Car Wash. The 3-year-old son of Noble Bird was on the Kentucky Derby trail, finishing eighth in the Blue Grass (G1), his most recent start. “Classic Car Wash is enjoying the sunshine. I just got him turned out. All those Derby preps and all that early in the year, it was just a lot for him. He’s not a very big horse anyways, he’s very light. And he was exhausted. After the Blue Grass, I just sent him home. I think that he has a lot of talent. He just needs to grow up. And so he’s just enjoying life right now.”

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