09/30/2008 11:00PM

Casse primed to have a pivotal weekend


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Heading into the weekend, trainer Mark Casse does not have a definitive Breeders' Cup candidate in his barn here at Woodbine.

But by the time the stakes action wraps up here and at Keeneland late Sunday afternoon, Casse's Breeders' Cup could runneth over with a handful of prospects.

On Saturday, Casse has entrants for three of the four Breeders' Cup Win and You're In turf races here, with Seaside Retreat set for the Grade 1 Canadian International for 3-year-olds and upward, Sealy Hill going in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor for fillies and mares, and Skipadate on tap for the Grade 1 Summer for 2-year-olds.

The stable also will be active at Keeneland, with Legal Move going in the Grade 3, $250,000 Phoenix, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and upward.

"I've always felt three-quarters would be his best race, and there wasn't really anything for him here," said Casse.

On Sunday, Casse will send out Stimulus Plan here for the Grade 3 Grey and both Bedtime Story and Retraceable for the Grade 3 Mazarine.

The Grey, a 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-olds, and the Mazarine, a 1 1/16 mile race for 2-year-old fillies, are not Win and You're in races, but each offers a purse of $250,000 including Breeders' Cup funds.

"I'm really high on Stimulus Plan," said Casse. "If he runs a big race, we'll send him to the Breeders' Cup.

"And with Retraceable and Bedtime Story, if one of the two were to pop up and run a big race we could send them too."

At Keeneland on Sunday, Casse will be represented by Dynamic Force in the Grade 3, $200,000 Woodford Reserve Bourbon, a Win and You're In stakes for 2-year-olds over 1 1/16 miles of turf.

Firmer is better for Seaside Retreat

Seaside Retreat, a Kentucky-bred gelding who is in the best form of his career at age 5, is heading into the Canadian International off a close third-place finish behind fellow Canadian International contestants Champs Elysees and Quijano in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer here Sept. 7.

The Northern Dancer was run over a yielding turf course at the same 1 1/2-mile distance of the Canadian International.

Seaside Retreat, a Kentucky-bred owned by Bill Farish Jr., recorded the biggest win of his career in his start before the Northern Dancer, capturing the Grade 2 Nijinsky here over 1 1/4 miles on firm turf.

"Everything's good," said Casse "His form on soft turf's not bad, but I'd love to have it a little firmer."

Old form eluding Sealy Hill

Sealy Hill, an Ontario-bred 4-year-old who races for her owner and breeder, Eugene Melnyk, was at the top of her game for the E.P. Taylor last year as she finished second, beaten a half-length, by the very talented French invader Mrs. Lindsay.

That performance helped propel Sealy Hill to titles as Canada's Horse of the Year, champion 3-year-old filly, and champion turf female.

But Sealy Hill's record has been spotty this year, as she has just an allowance win to show for five outings. Her catalog of idiosyncrasies - including attempting to pull herself up and lugging in at critical points - has contributed to that form.

"We're hoping maybe she's saved her best race for now," said Casse, who plans to tinker with Sealy Hill's blinkers and try a new bit.

"We know she has the ability, if she puts her mind to it."

Skipadate has Spa seasoning

Skipadate, a Florida-bred colt who is owned by Casse in partnership with Peter Rosbeck's Hidden Point Farm, started training here but was shipped this summer to Saratoga and the trainer's son and assistant Norman Casse.

"We had a lot of young horse ready to run, and I wanted to spread them out a little bit," said Casse.

Skipadate made two starts at Saratoga, both over 1 1/16 miles on turf, winning the first in a dead heat and then ending a close second in the With Anticipation, an overnight stakes.

"The funny thing about him is that he's actually trains better on the Polytrack and the dirt than he does on the turf," said Casse. "But, he's been so successful on the grass that we sure wouldn't want to change that."

Marsh Side 'coming around'

California-based trainer Neil Drysdale has done most of his damage here in the Woodbine Mile, winning with Labeeb in 1998, Touch of the Blues in 2003, and Becrux in 2006.

On Saturday, Drysdale will be looking to make his mark in another pair of major Woodbine features when he sends out Marsh Side for the Canadian International and Green Lyons for the E.P. Taylor.

Marsh Side, a Kentucky-bred 5-year-old who races for his owner and breeder Robert Evans, joined Drysdale's string this year when his former trainer, Michael Dickinson, retired to devote his full-time interest to his Tapeta racetrack surface.

Although he finished a solid second here in last year's Northern Dancer, Marsh Side then finished last of 12 in the Canadian International in his last start for Dickinson and was trounced in his first two appearances for Drysdale this spring.

"We got off on the wrong foot with the horse, but now it looks like he's coming around," said Drysdale.

"He'd had some things go wrong. We changed our way of training him."

Marsh Side showed his first signs of renewed life when fourth in the Cougar II, a 1 1/2-mile race over Del Mar's synthetic surface on July 30. Then, in his next and most recent outing, Marsh Side journeyed here for the Northern Dancer and was a close fourth, rallying from eighth place in the field of nine to be beaten just three-quarters of a length at 47-1.

"He trained well into that race. That's why we ran him," said Drysdale. "We thought it was worth a shot.

"I thought the horse ran very well. He really doesn't want to be at the back early."

Marsh Side stayed on here for a week following the Northern Dancer, then returned to California, where he has since worked seven furlongs on the turf at Santa Anita and six furlongs on the synthetic surface at Hollywood Park.

Javier Castellano will be aboard for the first time in the Canadian International.

Irish filly out for an upset

Drysdale also will be looking to upset the E.P. Taylor with Green Lyons, an Irish-bred 4-year-old filly he trains for Castleton Lyons.

Campaigned in France before joining Drysdale this year, Green Lyons has made six starts for his new trainer, with her lone success coming first crack out under second-level allowance terms at 1 1/8 miles on turf at Santa Anita.

Green Lyons has since performed creditably in Hollywood's Grade 2 Beverly Hills and Del Mar's Grade 1 John C. Mabee.

In her last start, the filly ended third as the even-money choice in an overnight turf stakes at 1 3/8 miles at Del Mar.

"We think the turf course up there will suit her a lot better than the tight turns here in California," Drysdale said by phone.

Jimmy Fortune, here to ride Lucarno in the Canadian International, has picked up the mount on Green Lyons.

Final handicapping seminar

Author Jim Mazur will host his last handicapping seminar of the season here Saturday, with the one-hour session beginning at 11 a.m. on the second floor of the grandstand.

Topics will include Santa Anita's new Pro-Ride surface, the new Breeders' Cup races, and the Canadian International and E.P. Taylor.

Free copies of "Crushing the Cup 2008," by Mazur and Peter Mallett, will be distributed while supplies last.