If he isn’t called up on stage when the big night rolls around in Ontario in April, somebody better check the recent stamps on the passports of the guys involved with those infamous hanging chads after the 2000 presidential balloting in Florida.
This would be election-rigging not seen since the era of Louisiana Senator Huey “Kingfish” Long back in the 1930s.
His numbers far surpass his 2011 total when those he sent postward bankrolled $7.8 million, or like in 2007, when his stakes total numbered 16.
His record at Woodbine, where he consistently runs away with titles, was ridiculous: 93 wins and $6.8 million in purses. Nobody else came close.
I suppose you could consider Casse the Canadian Todd Pletcher, who has four Eclipse Awards in his trophy case earned in four consecutive years from 2004 to 2007. Casse already has three Sovereigns, winning those back-to-back-to-back from 2006 to 2008.
Casse has yet to win the Kentucky Derby or a Breeders’ Cup race, but did train a Canadian Filly Triple Crown winner, Sealy Hill and has won dual classics north of the border and doesn’t have anywhere near the number of horses in training as Pletcher
He doesn’t operate as many different strings either. His main assistant is his son, Norman.
This winter, Mark has 32 stalls at Palm Meadows and another eight or so at Gulfstream. Llike Pletcher, he does get some really talented young horses to train, thanks to principal owners John Oxley, Bill Farish and Gary Barber, the latter a relative newcomer on the scene.
“So much of what’s going on in my life has to do with Bill,” said Casse, who saddled five runners in the last Breeders’ Cup including Farish’s Pool Play, his first Classic contender.
“I was kind of just going along [until] Bill gave me the opportunity to go out and buy some horses and show what I could do. Then others took notice so I owe a lot to Bill.”
Those words were part of a one-on-one interview that Mark gave me while covering his contingent at the recent Breeders’ Cup. It was made clear that Mark fully recognized that horse racing is like any other sport when it comes to reaching the pinnacle.
“It’s no different than a good college basketball or football team. When you’re successful, it builds more success. It’s easier to recruit, and recruiting is everything,” he said. “To me, of all of the things that I do, the number one thing is going out and finding the horses because it doesn’t matter if you’re Todd Pletcher or Bob Baffert, you’re only as good as your players.
“We’re fortunate that we have some wonderful owners who have faith in us and are letting us go out and spend their money. Hopefully, it will be a snowball effect; it seems to be that way.”
While no head coach, or trainer, ever admits looking too far down the road, I bet that Casse and Oxley will be making their reservations for Louisville around the first Saturday in May.
A trifecta of 3-year-olds: Uncaptured, Dynamic Sky and Indiano Jones are among the current leaders in the new Kentucky Derby points system. The multiple graded stakes winning Uncaptured, who took five stakes among his six wins in seven starts last year, is ranked in the top ten. Star Contender, also wearing Oxley’s gold-and-blue colors, has potential as well.
But first come the Sovereign Awards. I have never met Troy Taylor but have covered Reade Baker; each are worthy of high praise and consideration. But nobody deserves the honor for their work in 2012 more than Mark Casse.
Moreover, I expect that as many as five of his runners: Uncaptured (juvenile colt); Spring in the Air or Spring Venture (juvenile filly category); Dixie Strike (3-year-old filly); Delegation (3-year-old colt) and Roxy Gap (in the older female, turf female or female sprinting divisions) will be presented with Sovereigns as well.. Uncaptured is odds-on to be named Canada's Horse of the Year.
A fourth Sovereign Award for Mark Casse would be well deserved. “In this business, I never take anything for granted,” said Casse.