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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HorseRaceInsider was gratified to learn that The Turf Publicists of America have awarded their 2019 Big Sport of Turfdom award to trainer Mark Casse.

By definition, the recognition is warded to a person or group of people who enhance coverage of Thoroughbred racing.

No one was more eloquent or cooperative in the wake of the controversial Kentucky Derby disqualification of Maximum Security for interference.

Wherever anyone sits with respect to the demotion, no reasonable person could argue that an equine wreck ensued at the top of the Churchill Downs stretch and Casse’s subsequent Preakness winner War of Will got the worst of it.

In the incident’s wake and through the Triple Crown series, Casse was there, ducked no questions, and took advantage of every teachable moment, some of which included super-slow-mo, frame-by-frame video from the NBC telecast.

Casse did so without rancor or recrimination and was extremely patient during the process, offering his assessment of the pertinent issues, indeed calling on the stewards to perform more general inquiries rather than put the onus on riders to claim foul given the inherent conflicts.

“Mark Casse exemplifies the essence of the Big Sport of Turfdom award,” TPA President Amy Gregory said. “Mark is generous with his time and accessibility, making himself available during both the highs and lows of racing, always offering humor and candor. He is a favorite among Turf writers and a popular ambassador among racing fans.

“We congratulate Mark on his outstanding season, highlighted by his Triple Crown race wins with War of Will and Sir Winston, and on winning this year’s award.”

The Big Sport of Turfdom has been presented annually since 1966. This is the first time Casse has won the award. 

Last year’s award was given posthumously to John Asher, the longtime Vice President of Communications at Churchill Downs, who died suddenly in August 2018.

Other previous winners include jockeys Mike Smith, Pat Day, Chris McCarron, Bill Shoemaker, Angel Cordero Jr., Eddie Arcaro and Gary Stevens; trainers Art Sherman, Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas and Jack Van Berg.

Other individuals who have made significant contributions to the sport, such as Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery, a two-time winner; announcer Tom Durkin, author Laura Hillenbrand, broadcaster Jim McKay, Turf writer Joe Hirsch and actors Tim Conway and Jack Klugman. 

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