In 2007, Street Sense beat Any Given Saturday by a nose in the Tampa Bay Derby, setting a still-standing stakes record of 1:43.11 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth.
Casse, the trainer of Prospective, has entered his colt in Saturday’s mile-and-an-eighth Toyota Blue Grass, which will be run on Keeneland’s synthetic Polytrack surface. Prospective and jockey Luis Contreras have drawn the No. 3 post for the race, which has attracted 13 entries – including 6-5 morning-line favorite Hansen, who will break from the No. 4 post.
Prospective captured this year’s $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby on March 10 at Tampa Bay Downs, defeating Golden Ticket by three-quarters of a length in 1:43.35, the second-fastest time in the 32-year history of the race.
“We sure would be happy if he does the same thing as Street Sense,” said Casse, who is stabling Prospective at Churchill Downs, where he breezed five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 on April 2. “We just thought the Blue Grass would be a good spot as far as looking to the next step to get us to the Derby.”
Prospective, who is by the highly regarded sire Malibu Moon out of Spirited Away, by Awesome Again, is owned by John Oxley, who won the 2001 Kentucky Derby with Monarchos.
Prospective – who won the Grade III Grey Stakes on Woodbine’s synthetic surface as a 2-year-old – has made all three of his 2012 starts at Tampa Bay Downs. He won the $100,000 Pasco Stakes on Jan. 14, then finished second to Battle Hardened in the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 4 after an outside trip.
Casse believes the deep Tampa Bay Downs surface has helped build a strong foundation for Prospective as the Run for the Roses approaches. “From a fitness standpoint, he is at the top of his game,” Casse said.
“Knock on wood, he has gotten here in a safe manner. Your first concern is always your horse’s safety, and after three races at Tampa Bay Downs he has continued to train well. He is quite easy to train. He loves his business.”
Prospective will ship from Churchill Downs to Keeneland on Saturday morning, following the same routine as when he shipped from Palm Meadows Training Center to Tampa Bay Downs the morning of the Tampa Bay Derby.
“I think that tells (Prospective) that it’s race time,” Casse said. “If we go to the Kentucky Derby, I may just put him on a van and have them drive around for an hour, then bring him back to the barn. My son Joel is a policeman in Louisville, so maybe we can get a police escort around town.”
Like every trainer with a Kentucky Derby hopeful, Casse is aware the field is limited to 20 horses, and if more than 20 enter, graded stakes earnings are the determining factor in who gets in. Prospective currently ranks 16th with $365,452 in graded earnings, and although it would take a nightmare scenario to knock him out, nothing is official yet.
“We think we are safe with graded earnings – with a perfect-storm scenario, we could be 21st, but the Louisiana Derby winner (Hero of Order) would have to be supplemented (at a cost of $200,000),” Casse said.
Regardless, the Blue Grass is not the ultimate goal. “You don’t want an absolute real stressful, gut-wrenching start before the Derby. Our thought is we can get enough out of the Blue Grass and still have something left, which was another factor in our decision,” Casse said.
“He has already answered a lot of questions for me. He doesn’t have to win Saturday; I don’t even expect to win,” Casse said. “I would love for him to win, but I think the synthetic is his least-preferred surface. So I would like to see him run a nice race and come out of it healthy and ready to go.”