06/10/2007 11:00PM

Casse back to work after huge Sunday


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - It was business as usual for trainer Mark Casse on Monday morning, as he watched the main-track workouts from his regular spot in the Woodbine grandstand.

"I still don't know that it's sunk in," said Casse, who sent out Sealy Hill to win Sunday's $502,000 Woodbine Oaks and accounted for the one-two finishers in both the $125,800 Victoria Park and the $103,600 Alywow. "I was so tired last night. I haven't even watched the replays yet."

Casse will have plenty of entertaining viewing once he does get around to studying Sunday's races, with Sealy Hill's resounding score under jockey Patrick Husbands the undoubted highlight.

Sealy Hill was making her first appearance as a 3-year-old here in the 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks, coming off a distant 12th-place finish in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 4.

Casse, however, was convinced that Sealy Hill's Kentucky Oaks performance was due to a combination of the fast pace, muddy going, and superior competition headed by subsequent Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches.

And Casse's confidence was justified when Sealy Hill romped home by 4 1/4 lengths Sunday.

"I'm proud of her," Casse said. "She's really matured. She was very good in the paddock.

"She's always been kind of a light filly and, looking at her in the walking ring, I hoped I'd done enough. She had a little belly on her. It was the heaviest I've ever seen her."

Casse and Husbands recorded their second consecutive Woodbine Oaks victory, after clicking last year with Kimchi. Kimchi went on to take the Sovereign Award for her division and Casse received his first Sovereign as outstanding trainer.

Sealy Hill unlikely to try Queen's Plate

Sealy Hill's owners, Eugene and Laura Melnyk, watched the Woodbine Oaks at their home in Barbados.

Melnyk also owns the Ottawa Senators and had followed his team through their lengthy but ultimately unsuccessful bid for the Stanley Cup.

"They were both very excited," Casse said. "For them to win the Oaks was a big, big deal. They'll be here for the Queen's Plate."

Sealy Hill is eligible for the $1 million Queen's Plate on June 24 but the filly is likely to stay in the barn while her stablemate Marchfield contests the 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

Marchfield, also owned by the Melnyks and ridden by Husbands, is heading into the Queen's Plate off a second-place finish to Jiggs Coz in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial here June 3.

"We feel really good about Marchfield; we think he's coming up to the Plate really well," Casse said. "Jiggs Coz is going to be really tough to beat, but I think if anyone can beat him, we can."

A logical target for Sealy Hill would be the $250,000 Bison City, a 1 1/16-mile race here July 1.

The Bison City is the second leg of the triple tiara for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies, a series that winds up with the $250,000 Wonder Where at 1 1/4 miles on turf here July 28.

The series involves only bragging rights, as there is no bonus money attached.

Approval Rating could improve with distance

Approval Rating and Skip Code finished first and second for Casse in the 1 1/8-mile Victoria Park, with Approval Rating being ridden by Husbands and Skip Code by the visiting John Velazquez. The stakes win was the first for Approval Rating, a Florida-bred.

"The farther he goes, the better he's going to get," said Casse, noting that Approval Rating's sire, Lemon Drop Kid, is known for his late developers.

Skip Code, a Kentucky-bred, had won the Grade 3 Grey here last October but had not been putting his best foot forward recently.

"The horse is such a bad actor that I was a little leery about putting Velazquez on him," Casse said. "But he really gave him a strong ride. I was impressed that he came back on to be second.

"Velazquez said if he ever sets his mind to running, he could be any kind."

Approval Rating and Skip Code both are candidates for the $150,000 Toronto Cup, an open 1o1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds here July 14.

Silky Smooth's turf debut a success

Silky Smooth and Quiet Action swept the top two spots in the Alywow, an open 6 1/2-furlong turf race for 3-year-old fillies, with Husbands again getting the best of Velazquez.

Both fillies are owned by Woodford Racing, and the stakes success was the first for Silky Smooth, a Kentucky-bred who was making her turf debut.

"I knew she liked the turf, the way she worked over it the other day, with the length of her stride," said Casse, who had sent out Silky Smooth to breeze five furlongs in 1:00.60 over the turf training course on June 1. "My only concern was whether she could get up in time, at 6 1/2 furlongs."

Silky Smooth just did get up to score by a head, but the margin may have been misleading as she was bothered on the final turn.

"Maybe she was better than she showed," Casse said. "She's a filly that's grown up. She's probably put on 100 pounds from 2 to 3.

"I think she's good enough to go south."

Quiet Action, bred in Ontario, was recording her second runner-up finish in a turf stakes, and also has placed in two stakes here on Polytrack.

"We always knew she liked the turf better, but she almost breezed good enough on Polytrack for us to run her in the Oaks," Casse said.

Quiet Action's next target is the $150,000 Ontario Damsel, a 6 1/2-furlong turf race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-old fillies here July 8.