06/08/2010 12:00AM

Casse back in Oaks chase


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Tasty Temptation entered last year's 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks as one of the logical choices for trainer Mark Casse and finished second behind Milwaukee Appeal.

This year, Casse will be looking to get to the Woodbine Oaks winner's circle with Isabeau's Elegance, who is coming into Sunday's $500,000 feature off a maiden win at 1 1/16 miles here May 21.

"This filly hasn't accomplished nearly as much," said Casse, noting that Tasty Temptation also was just a one-time winner coming into the Woodbine Oaks but was coming off a strong second-place finish behind Grade 1 winner Hooh Why in the open La Lorgnette here at 1 1/16 miles. "This is a tough spot, and she's got to step up her game and run the best race of her life just to hit the board.

"I think it's within the realm of possibility. Otherwise, we wouldn't be in there."

Casse, who won the Woodbine Oaks with Kimchi in 2006 and Sealy Hill in 2007, trains Isabeau's Elegance for the Florida-based Classic Oaks Farm of Donna McLaughlin.

"She bought her as a weanling, to pinhook her," said Casse. "She was consigned by Jerry Bailey, and when he didn't get her sold he suggested to Mrs. McLaughlin that I was in Toronto and since the filly was a Canadian-bred, he could send her to us. That's how we got her."

Isabeau's Elegance checked into Casse's barn here last fall but did not make it to the races as a 2-year-old.

"We were never able to get her ready to run," said Casse. "So we took her back to Florida with us."

Isabeau's Elegance, following a modus operandi that Casse used for a number of his inexperienced runners this year, debuted on the turf at Tampa Bay Downs.

And, while Isabeau's Elegance failed to menace in that 1 1/8-mile race on Feb. 21, finishing 7 3/4 lengths behind the winner in eighth place, Casse felt that the outing served its purpose.

"I wanted to try her over a route of ground, and test her a bit," said Casse. "She didn't do a lot of running, but she wasn't beaten that far. I thought it was a good effort."

Isabeau's Elegance returned to Woodbine in early April and made her local bow in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race on April 18.

Sent off at 32-1, the filly performed gamely in finishing second behind the favored Platinum Exchange.

"I thought she had a big shot that day," said Casse.

Slated to make her next start here May 9, Isabeau's Elegance acted up at the gate and was scratched.

She was on her best behavior when she returned less than two weeks later, pressing the pace and prevailing by a nose with rider Corey Fraser in the irons for the first time.

"I'd kind of always thought she was an Oaks-type filly," said Casse. "She's a big, tall, lean filly who looks like a route filly."

Tasty Temptation fine after break

Tasty Temptation went from the Woodbine Oaks to the Queen's Plate, where she finished fourth, and then became a stakes winner here in the Wonder Where over 1 1/4 miles on soft turf on July 25. That was her last start of the year.

"She always had some nagging injuries as a 3-year-old, but she ran through them," said Casse, who trains Tasty Temptation for Bill Farish's Jr.'s Woodford Racing LLC. "We could have kept going with her after the Wonder Where, but she just wasn't happy. "So, we decided to put her away."

The time off evidently has worked wonders, as Tasty Temptation was a sharp winner under second-level allowance terms in her return at 6 1/2 furlongs here April 30 and then romped in the 1 1/16-mile allowance prep for the Hill 'n' Dale Stakes under regular rider Patrick Husbands.

"She's come back bigger and stronger," said Casse. "She's just a better horse. I couldn't be more pleased with her."

Tasty Temptation is slated to make her next start in the $100,000 Hill 'n' Dale, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares here June 20.

And, if all remains well, Tasty Temptation then could be going on the road.

Casse, noting the success of other offspring of the sire Medaglia d'Oro on dirt, is looking at the July 17 Delaware Handicap or the Aug. 1 Ruffian at Saratoga for Tasty Temptations initiation to the new surface.

Ghost Fleet bears watching

The $150,000 Plate Trial also will be run here Sunday and one of the more closely watched participants will be Ghost Fleet.

Owned and bred by Mel Lawson's Jim Dandy Stable and trained by Sid Attard, Ghost Fleet was one of the top local 2-year-olds last season with a pair of sprint stakes wins and earnings of $267,100.

After concluding his campaign with a close fourth-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity, Ghost Fleet shipped to Robert Copelan's Sunnyside Farm in Kentucky.

"They gave him some rest down there, and started up with him the first week of January," said Attard.

Ghost Fleet has started just once this season, finishing six lengths behind the powerful front-running winner Essence Hit Man in the seven-furlong Queenston here May 15.

In his final major tune-up for the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial, Ghost Fleet breezed seven furlongs in 1:27 under his new rider, Luis Contreras.

"That was the second time he worked him," said Attard. "It was a very good work."

D's Wando has solid work

D's Wando had his final Plate Trial tune-up here Tuesday, working four furlongs in 48.80 seconds and galloping out five furlongs in 1:01.40 under his regular rider, Emma-Jayne Wilson.

"I was really very happy with him this morning," said Ian Black, who trains D's Wando for owner Carmen DiPaola and family.

D's Wando finished a close third in the Coronation Futurity after winning a first-level allowance over 1 1/16 miles here last fall.

In two appearances this year, D's Wando was a close second behind Essence Hit Man in the six-furlong Woodstock and third, three-quarters of a length behind Ghost Fleet, in the Queenston.