11/26/2010 12:39PM

Casse enjoys another big Woodbine meet


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Mark Casse will be leaving on Monday for Florida, where he has stalls at Palm Meadows and owns Moonshadow Farm in Ocala. And, Casse will be heading out with the certain knowledge that he will be Woodbine’s leading trainer in both races won and money won for the fourth straight year.

Casse had won 83 races and $4.6 million heading into Friday’s program. His previous bests were 85 wins and $5.76 million, in 2007.

“All in all, it’s been a good, solid year,” said Casse, who also had been the Sovereign Award winner for three consecutive years before finishing second behind Roger Attfield in the 2009 voting. “Woodbine is becoming a lot tougher place to compete than it has ever been before.

“There are always races you would have liked to have won, when things could have went your way, but there are a lot of different races you won that you shouldn’t have.”

Casse’s outfit is the most active on the circuit, with 535 starters heading into Friday. Trainer Reade Baker is next in starts with 347, wins with 60, and purses with $3.5 million.

“There are a few trainers with better win percentages, but they didn’t run the numbers that we ran,” said Casse. “It’s very tough to run a lot of horses and stay above 20 percent. The fields have been big all year.”

Individual performers who have stood out for Casse this year include Delightful Mary, who finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies; Strike Oil, who upset the Coronation Futurity; and Barracks Road, who won two stakes and placed in three others while banking $350,160.

“I was very excited with the way Delightful Mary came around and performed in the Breeders’ Cup, and Strike Oil could have a big future next year – he’ll be pointing for the Queen’s Plate,” said Casse. “Barracks Road had a very solid year. I’d had high hopes for her last year a 2-year-old, but she was never able to show me in the afternoon what she showed me in the morning.”

Casse has sent out 10 stakes winners at the meeting, and was to run Control in Saturday’s $125,000 Kingarvie. He has both Bluegrass Dreamer and Sardonicus slated for Sunday’s $150,000 Display.

Sardonicus, an Ontario foal, won his maiden at the 1 1/16-mile Display distance here in his second start Oct. 31.

“He’s a pretty nice horse,” said Casse. “In his last race, he showed a lot of gameness.”

Bluegrass Dreamer won his maiden over one mile and 70 yards for Bill Mott here in his third career appearance Oct. 11. Casse said he has trained Bluegrass Dreamer for about three weeks.

Casse also could be represented in the two closing weekend stakes, with Sense of Pride a possibility for the $150,000 Ontario Lassie and Pool Play a leading contender for the $150,000 Valedictory.

Sense of Pride would be seeking her first win in the $150,000 Ontario Lassie, a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-foaled 2-year-old fillies. She finished third over that distance in her last two starts, which came in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes and a maiden race.

Pool Play, who breezed four furlongs in 49.60 on Friday morning, won the 1 5/8-mile prep for the Valedictory in convincing fashion and is looming as the horse to beat in the 1 3/4-mile Valedictory.

Casse has 25 stalls at Palm Meadows in Florida and plans to do some racing at both Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs.

“We have a lot of young horses just kind of starting their careers,” said Casse. “We need to run some in the wintertime.”

Roxy Gap, who was undefeated in three starts here before being sidelined on the morning of her expected appearance in the Natalma Stakes, left for Palm Meadows on Friday. Roxy Gap won the Shady Well and then romped in the one-mile turf prep for the Natalma, but she developed an abscess on her leg that wound up putting an end to her campaign.

Silverleo a longshot with a chance

Trainer Greg De Gannes, a veterinarian who worked as a Casse assistant before striking out on his own in 2004, will be sending out a Display dark horse in Silverleo.

Silverleo was beaten 4 1/4 lengths as the fifth-place finisher in the 1 1/16 mile Grey when trying two turns and being ridden by Chantal Sutherland for the first time here Oct. 10.

“For the first three-quarters, he was trapped down on the inside,” said De Gannes. “He couldn’t get out, and that wasn’t the place to be. When he finally got outside and got running, the race was over.”

De Gannes will equip Silverleo with blinkers for the first time, hoping they will give him more focus.

“He’s had them on for his last few works, and Chantal has felt they made a significant difference,” De Gannes said.

Silverleo will be wintering in Florida. The De Gannes-trained Jenny’s So Great is already there. She won the Carotene Stakes and finished second in the Ontario Damsel on the turf course here.

De Gannes also will be heading south when the season winds up here.

“I’ll be taking a long holiday in Antigua,” he said.

◗ The Jockey Club of Canada has announced that the deadline for media submissions for the 2010 Sovereign Awards is 1 p.m. ET on Dec. 19. Media awards are presented in four categories – newspaper article, feature story, film/video/broadcast, and photograph.

◗ Horsemen and horseplayers should have additional opportunities during the final week of racing with nine races offered for Wednesday and Thursday and 11 for Friday and Saturday. Closing-day plans had not been announced as of Friday morning.

◗ Amanda Marsella, a second-year student at the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph, is this year’s recipient of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society’s Gillian Luxton MD Scholarship. There were seven applicants for the $5,000 college or university scholarship, which is based on academic ability and participation in academic training programs related to the horse or the horse racing industry.