05/27/2004 11:00PM

Casselman 2 for 2 as a breeder


Gail Casselman has bred only two racehorses in her 17 years in the horse business, and she may never breed another one.

But one of them, the long-backed and high-striding gelding Copper Trail, could put Casselman in the headlines come Queen's Plate Day, June 27.

A Woodbine-based trainer, Casselman no longer owns Copper Trail - he is owned by Stolar Stables and trained by Jim Day - but she's almost as happy simply collecting the breeders' awards that have stuffed her mailbox since last fall, when Copper Trail won the first of his two stakes races.

"It would have been great to keep him," said Casselman, who conditions a small stable of horses including recent impressive winners Silent Circle and Love on the Run. "But you have to sell some to buy some more. It would be great if he made the Plate."

Copper Trail's first start of 2004 was an eye-catching win in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming event May 16. Last year, Copper Trail won his maiden in the Juvenile Colts Stakes at Fort Erie, took the restricted Frost King Stakes in his next start, and then finished third to early Plate favorite A Bit O'Gold in the Coronation Futurity.

An $8,500 yearling purchase, Copper Trail, a Foxtrail 3-year-old, has earned $196,370.

Casselman purchased Copper Trail's dam, Incorporated, for $14,000 at the 1996 Keeneland January sale as an unraced 2-year-old.

"I liked her very much," said Casselman. "She had a wonderful walk and was an attractive-looking filly."

A large Ontario-bred daughter of Corporate Report-Yellow Finn, Incorporated was third three times in her first five races before suffering a fractured knee.

"She had talent, but she was very big and it was hard to keep her sound," Casselman said.

Casselman decided to keep Incorporated as a broodmare and give the breeding game "a whirl." She took Incorporated to the court of Ontario stallion Sea Wall and got the filly Asfarasyoucansea, who earned over $100,000 on the track.

After leasing the mare for one breeding season to Tim and Sue Drake, who foaled Asfarasyoucansea, Casselman bred Incorporated to Foxtrail, and the result was Copper Trail.

"He was a nice colt, fairly big like his [dam]," said Casselman. "But he was a nice, scopey horse."

Casselman elected to sell Copper Trail at the 2002 Fasig-Tipton Woodbine yearling sale and received a bid of $8,500 from trainer Jim Day, one of Casselman's first racetrack bosses.

"I thought he would bring a bit more," she said. "He had a couple of big splints, but he had a big, long beautiful walk."

Day entered Copper Trail in last year's Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society 2-year-olds in training sale, but bought him back for $85,000.

"Jimmy told me all along that he really liked him a lot," said Casselman.

Casselman, who sold Incorporated to the Drakes soon after Cooper Trail was foaled, does not own a broodmare these days and prefers to buy yearlings.

"Breeding is a very difficult business," she said. "I think I've had beginner's luck. But you never know, it's possible I could get back into it."