Mark Casse has moved a division from the cold clime of Canada to sunny Southern California, and he’s loving it.
“We had 17 horses here when the meet first started, but within the next 10 days, we’ll probably have 30, 32,” Casse said on a “Chamber of Commerce” morning at Santa Anita Saturday. “There were a lot of reasons I brought horses in from Woodbine,” continued the 47-year-old Casse, a native of Indianapolis who is in his 30th year of training. “We’ve been struggling the last few years as we changed our program, and I train for some pretty big people who have a lot of well-bred horses.
“The other thing is, we race on synthetic surfaces all year long at Woodbine, we have a synthetic surface we train on in Florida that we love, and I love synthetic surfaces. I get a big laugh when I watch these people who knock it, because it’s so much better than the conventional race tracks, and I have the statistics (to back it up).”
‘COWBOY’ HOPES TO LASSO ’BIG CAP VICTORY AFTER SAN PASQUAL
Aside from a disappointing maiden effort and a ninth by some 16 lengths behind probable 2008 male 3-year-old champion Big Brown in the Kentucky Derby, Cowboy Cal has been a model of consistency.
The 4-year-old Giant’s Causeway colt has a 4-3-0 record from nine starts, and is coming off a sharp second Nov. 30 in the Grade I Hollywood Derby at 1 ¼ miles on turf. Today, he tackles eight rivals in the Grade II, $150,000 San Pasqual Handicap, a major prep for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 7.
“The objective is the Santa Anita Handicap,” said Mike “Whitey” McCarthy, who directs Southern California operations for four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher. “Cowboy Cal ran a very good race in the Blue Grass on the synthetic surface (Polytrack at Keeneland last April 12), where he was beaten by his stablemate, Monba. Cowboy Cal came to California and trained very well over the synthetic.
“The Hollywood Derby seemed like a logical spot. He ran a bang-up race, and he’s had plenty of time between that race and this race, and we’ve got his regular rider, John Velazquez, coming out to ride. There were plenty of guys lined up (from the Santa Anita colony) wanting to ride, but John is sticking with him.”
Cowboy Cal, owned by Robert and Janice McNair, who race as Magnolia Racing Stable, has earned $507,708. He was bred by Stonerside Stable in Kentucky.
POINT ENCOUNTER’S PRICE PLUMMETS IN DERBY FUTURE BOOK
Point Encounter made quite a splash when victorious in his career debut at Santa Anita on Dec. 26. So much so that the Point Given colt has attracted considerable respect in future book wagering for the May 2 Kentucky Derby.
“In the Wynn/Encore future book Derby odds in Las Vegas as of Jan. 5, Point Encounter was the 15-1 co-favorite with Old Fashioned,” noted Jon White, a commentator for HRTV and Santa Anita’s simulcast network. “That’s pretty remarkable, really, considering Point Encounter has won only a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race so far.
“It’s clear that Point Encounter looks like he’s an exceptional colt. He also has an excellent trainer (Carla Gaines). But, in my opinion, 15-1 at this time of the year on someone who has started only one time, in a sprint, is a ridiculously low price. I’d say it’s a bad price on Old Fashioned, too. But at least he’s three for three and a Grade II winner going a mile and an eighth, thanks to his win in the Remsen in New York.
“Pioneerof the Nile, who is No. 1 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 list, is 20-1. There certainly isn’t any value there, either. And how about the prices for Vineyard Haven and Midshipman? Vineyard Haven is 22-1. Midshipman is 25-1. I don’t even have them on my Top 10 list because they’ve both been sent to Dubai.”
Here is White’s current Kentucky Derby Top 10: (1) Pioneerof the Nile, (2) Old Fashioned, (3) I Want Revenge, (4) Chocolate Candy, (5) Stardom Bound, (6) Indygo Mountain, (7) Square Eddie, (8) Well Positioned, (9) Hello Broadway, (10) Notonthesamepage.
In the only change from last week, Notonthesamepage, who won the Spectacular Bid Stakes at Gulfstream Park by 8 1/4 lengths last Saturday, has replaced Haynesfield, who took Aqueduct’s Count Fleet Stakes the same day in workmanlike fashion by 3 1/2 lengths.
“I was more impressed by Notonthesamepage than Haynesfield,” White said. “Notonthesamepage earned a 115 Beyer Speed Figure. That’s a very serious number for any horse at any track and at any distance. Keep in mind that Point Encounter earned an 94 Beyer at the same distance.
As for Haynesfield, he was visually unimpressive to me and his Beyer was just an 88. Maybe it will turn out that Notonthesamepage is nothing more than a quality sprinter. But, at this point, I felt that his 115 earned him a spot on my Top 10. And at least Notonthesamepage’s future book price is reasonable. He’s 125-1.”
FINISH LINES: Malibu Stakes winner Bob Black Jack is undergoing tests to determine an undisclosed ailment and is expected to be sidelined for several months. “He was lame a couple days ago when we pulled him out to jog (at Hollywood Park),” trainer Jim Kasparaoff said of the world record holder for six furlongs at 1:06.67 set in last year’s Sunshine Millions Dash. “We’re not 100 percent sure what’s wrong with him, but he’s definitely out of the Sunshine Millions Sprint (Jan. 24) and the Golden Shaheen (in Dubai on March 28). My feeling is he needs three to four months. Our plans are on hold, but I don’t think you’ll be hearing from him until maybe Del Mar.” Bob Black Jack, a 4-year-old California-bred son of Stormy Jack, has a 4-2-1 record from 10 starts, with earnings of $594,925 . . . Today’s three-day Pick Six carryover of $1,210,706 has been achieved in large part due to Joe Talamo, who turns 19 on Monday. Fourth in the Santa Anita standings with 10 wins through Friday, Talamo won the last two races Friday with Bonjour ($31.60) for trainer Steve Knapp and Kafwain’s Belle ($12.60) for Mike Puype. On Thursday, he rode Where’s Scarlet to a front-running victory for Bill Currin at a $94.60 payoff. Just call him “Carryover Joe” . . . Richard Mandella was encouraged Friday night on his latest visit with Eddie Logan, Santa Anita’s legendary 98-year-old icon, who has been in Arcadia Methodist Hospital since suffering a seizure last Saturday. “He recognized me and he was sitting up,” the Hall of Fame trainer said of the shoe shine man who has been at Santa Anita every opening day since the track opened on Christmas Day, 1934. “That was encouraging, because he was pretty much out of it when I visited him before.” . . . Trainer Mark Casse on his go-to rider, Patrick Husbands: “I think he’s won over 500 races for me, so it’s been a successful combination.” Top Canadian rider Husbands is due to ride at Santa Anita for much of the remainder of the meet.