Perry Lefko, a winner of four Sovereign Awards as a turf writer, interviewed trainer Mark Casse this morning on his internet show, Be My Guest.
Casse spoke at length about the ups and downs conditioning Kentucky Derby hopefuls Uncaptured and Dynamic Sky, as well as filly Spring in the Air.
“It’s a great position to be in. It’s such a tough road to get there, so when you can have two (Derby prospects), it’s always better than one,” said Casse. “At this point in time, if we could get one there happy, healthy and ready to go, we’ll be very happy.”
Lefko was quick to bring up the Canadian angle, noting that both Uncaptured and Dynamic Sky are Canadian-bred and that Casse has a rare opportunity to take a run at both the U.S and Canadian Triple Crowns.
“The Queen’s Plate is a big point on our radar and we don’t want to lose track of that,” agreed Casse. “We have a filly, as well, that’s a Canadian-bred (Spring in the Air) and she’s getting ready to run in the Ashland. She’s already a Grade 1 winner (Alcibiades) and she could run in the (Kentucky) Oaks. She’s also a Canadian Oaks filly and possibly a Queen’s Plate filly as well.
“We have an abundance of really good Canadian-breds this year and that’s nice to have. It speaks volumes to what’s going on in Canada recently, how these horses are able to go out and compete, not just in Canada, but in the world against the best there is.”
Lefko brought up a pair of Canadian greats, Sunny’s Halo and Northern Dancer, as examples of horses that made an impact competing at the highest level.
Northern Dancer, of course, is the only horse to have won both the Kentucky Derby and the Queen’s Plate and Casse noted that Oxley, who won the Derby with Monarchos in 2001, would like to join E.P Taylor in that exclusive club.
“Mr. Oxley is excited and wants to win the Kentucky Derby again, but he wants to win the Queen’s Plate as well,” said Casse.
|Dynamic Sky (photo by Melanie Casse)|
Getting to the Derby is no easy chore. Casse accomplished that feat last year with Prospective, another Oxley charge, only to see the Malibu Moon colt clip heels as the field of 20 burst from the gate.
“Prospective was a long shot, but he came up to the Derby as good as a horse could do. He was training great and seemed to get over Churchill Downs well,” recalled Casse. “He broke from the gate, went 100 yards, and the grey horse came over on us and our horse clipped his heels. It took all Luis (Contreras) could do to stay on him and not fall off. Our day was done, 100 yards out of the gate, after years of preparation.”
Granted, with some 35 years in the business, Casse knows that racing luck comes and goes.
“Some days you lose those types of races, some days those are the types of things that help you win them,” said Casse.
Charting a path to Churchill Downs for Uncaptured, a winner of six starts as a juvenile, has been difficult as the star colt endured a bruised foot, and then a second hoof issue, delaying his eventual three-year-old debut to last Saturday’s Spiral Stakes, at Turfway.
“It’s a little nerve wracking,” said Casse. “Nothing has gone right for Uncaptured since he won the Kentucky Jockey Club. It’s been one problem after another, but right now he is approaching the top of his game.”
Casse was pleased with Uncaptured’s strong second-place run on Saturday, when defeated 1 ½-lengths by Black Onyx.
“I’m really excited and very pleased with his performance on Saturday. Yes, he got beat, but he had so many things thrown at him,” said Casse. “If he can come out of that, and so far the last few days out at the track he looks like the old Uncaptured, you’re going to see a bigger and better horse in his next start. If things keep going the way they are going, Uncaptured will be at the top of his game on the first Saturday in May.
Joining Casse on the Kentucky Derby trail is Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield who sends out Are You Kidding Me in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1-million Florida Derby, at Gulfstream.
|Are You Kidding Me in the Woodbine walking ring|
Are You Kidding Me, out of Sweet Awakening, a half-sister to Grade 2 Illinois Derby winner Recapturetheglory, then tried his luck in a pair of graded events, finishing second in the Grade 2 Summer Stakes, on the E.P Taylor Turf Course; and fifth, defeated less than three lengths, in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity, at Keeneland.
Attfield entered the Kentucky-bred son of Run Away and Hide in the Grade 2 Swale Stakes (March 2), at Gulfstream, for his three-year-old debut, but scratched the colt after drawing post 12.
The colt found a more favourable spot a week later at Tampa Bay Downs, in a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance, finishing a closing second, defeated just a nose, to Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up Noble Tune.
On Saturday, Are You Kidding Me will make his first dirt start in the 1 1/8-mile test, while also looking to pick up his first points in the new Kentucky Derby points system.
A win (100 points) or place (40 points) would likely be enough to propel Attfield’s talented colt into the Kentucky Derby starting gate. Finishing third (20 points) or fourth (10 points) would require Attfield to find one more race for the bay.
To earn those points, Are You Kidding Me will have to better last year’s two-year-old champion, Shanghai Bobby, as well as Grade 3 Holy Bull winner Itsmyluckyday and Fountain of Youth champ, Orb.
Are You Kidding Me drew Post 9 in Saturday’s 10-horse field and is listed at odds of 15-1.
FIELD FOR THE FLORIDA DERBY
PP/ Horse/ Jockey/ Trainer/ Odds
1 / Shanghai Bobby/ Rosie Napravnik/ Todd Pletcher/ 5-2
2 / Pick of the Litter/ Jesus Castanon/ Dale Romans/ 6-1
3 / Itsmyluckyday/ Elvis Trujillo/ Eddie Plesa Jr./ 2-1
4 / Pontiff/ Alan Garcia/ Dale Romans/ 30-1
5 / Frac Daddy/ Corey Lanerie/ Kenny McPeek/ 20-1
6 / Orb/ John Velazquez/ Shug McGaughey/ 3-1
7 / Indy's Illusion/ Rajiv Maragh/ Barclay Tagg/ 20-1
8 / Merit Man/ Kent Desormeaux/ Bob Hess Jr./ 15-1
9 / Are You Kidding Me/ Jose Lezcano/ Roger Attfield/ 15-1
10 / Narvaez/ Paco Lopez/ Augustin Bezara/ 20-1