01/05/2017 3:10PM

2016 Eclipse Awards: Mark Casse

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Trainer Mark Casse has long been a fixture at the Sovereign Awards ceremony for Canada’s leading trainer, winning eight times. Now, he joins the Eclipse Award ceremony as a finalist for North American’s outstanding trainer of 2016.

Casse’s horses made more than $17.9 million in North America last year, placing him third by earnings behind trainers Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher, with a tally that shortchanged him to some extent. Casse won races in America and Canada last year, but also in Britain, when his star grass mare Tepin traveled to Royal Ascot for the Group 1, $856,300 Queen Anne Stakes. Those earnings are not included in his North American total.

Although Tepin fell a half-length short of defending her title in the Breeders’ Cup Mile in 2016 at Santa Anita – a race she won by 2 1/4 lengths at Keeneland in 2015 – she performed valiantly in defeat with her wide runner-up finish to Tourist. She, like Casse, is a finalist for year-end honors, one of three eligible to win for champion turf female of 2016.

Despite Tepin’s defeat, Casse didn’t leave Santa Anita without a Breeders’ Cup trophy. Classic Empire took the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for Casse, becoming the leading finalist for outstanding 2-year-old male of 2016 and the early favorite for the 2017 Kentucky Derby.

Casse finished 2016 with 26 graded stakes victories in North America, including eight Grade 1 stakes victories. Besides Classic Empire’s Breeders’ Cup victory, other Grade 1 scores included a dead-heat win from Pretty City Dancer in the Spinaway at Saratoga; a score from Victory to Victory in the Natalma at Woodbine; a wire-to-wire triumph by Catch a Glimpse in the Belmont Oaks Invitational; a prestigious turf victory from World Approval in the United Nations; victories from Tepin in the Coolmore Jenny Wiley and Ricoh Woodbine Mile; and a victory in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland for Classic Empire in the race preceeding his Breeders’ Cup triumph.

Besides his 2017 Kentucky Derby aspirations for Classic Empire, Casse also has a top prospect for the 2017 Kentucky Oaks in 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up Valadorna.

Casse, 55, was inducted in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2016.