Veteran trainer Mark Casse sending three horses to Woodbine Mile

TORONTO — Trainer Mark Casse will be well represented in the $1-million Ricoh Woodbine Mile on Saturday.

Casse, 15 times Canada’s top thoroughbred conditioner, will have three entries in the six-horse field at Woodbine Racetrack. A win Saturday would be Casse’s third and tie him with Neil Drysdale, Robert Frankel and Charles LoPresti for most Mile victories by a trainer.

Casse’s horses Ice Chocolat, My Sea Cottage and Lucky Score drew No. 4, 5 and 6 posts, respectively, Wednesday. Ice Chocolat is a Brazilian-bred horse while My Sea Cottage was bred in Ireland and Lucky Score was bred in Ontario.

Jockey Joel Rosario will be aboard Ice Chocolat while Dylan Davis gets the mount on My Sea Cottage. Sahin Civaci will ride Lucky Score.

The remainder of the field includes Irish-bred Master of The Seas (post No. 1), War Bomber (another Irish-bred horse in post No. 2) and Shirl’s Speight (post No. 3). Shirl’s Speight is a six-year-old Kentucky-bred horse that’s owned by Edmonton native Charles Fipke and trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Roger Attfield, who has won the King’s Plate a record-tying eight times.

Shirl’s Speight has five wins from 17 career starts and earned over $1.2 million but is winless in three races this season. Shirl’s Speight was a solid second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile to Modern Games, the 2022 Woodbine Mile winner. He will be ridden Saturday by veteran jockey John Velazquez, who has won this event a record five times.

William Buick will be aboard Masters of The Seas while War Bomber will be ridden by Rico Walcott. Walcott rode War Bomber to victory last month in the $200,000 King Edward Stakes, a Grade 2 race at Woodbine.

It was War Bomber’s first win in four starts this year and leaves trainer Norman McKnight cautiously optimistic.

“Rico rode him last time … and he was aboard him again to breeze,” McKnight said. “He came back and told me he thought he breezed better this time coming into the Ricoh Woodbine Mile than he did into the King Edward.

“We’re really optimistic. It’s a nice bunch of horses, I think anybody is capable of winning. But I think our guy is coming into the race in really good form and merits a very strong look.”

On Tuesday, Walcott rode Kaukokaipuu to a second-place finish behind Velocitor and jockey Justin Stein in the $400,000 Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie Racetrack. Stein also won last year’s race aboard Duke of Love.

The Mile will be one of three Grade 1 turf races Saturday with the winners securing berths to the 2023 Breeders’ Cup, which will be held Nov. 3-4 at California’s Santa Anita Park. The other two are the $500,000 Johnnie Walker Natalma Stakes (two-year-old fillies) and $500,000 bet365 Summer Stakes (two-year-olds).

Both races are also over a mile. The Natalma Stakes will feature a 15-horse field while 11 horses will go postward in the Summer Stakes.

The Mile winner will qualify for the US$2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile. The Johnnie Walker Natalma Stakes secures a spot in the $1-million Juvenile Fillies Turf while the bet365 Summer Stakes champion will earn a position in the $2-million Juvenile Turf.

Casse will also be busy in the other two Grade 1 races as he’ll have four horses in the Natalma Stakes and five in the Summer Stakes. Woodbine conditioner Kevin Attard, who won the 2022 Plate with filly Moira, will put three horses postward in both the Natalma and Summer Stakes races.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 13, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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