03/07/2016 3:08PM

Norman E. Casse, influential Florida horseman, dies at 79

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Norman E. Casse, an influential figure in the Florida Thoroughbred industry for several decades and the patriarch of a family of prominent horsemen, died Sunday at his farm in Ocala, Fla., following an illness. He was 79.

A native of Indianapolis, Casse went the races at Keeneland while attending Indiana University. He purchased his first broodmare shortly after graduating with a business degree and was involved with the Thoroughbred industry ever since.

He initially became involved in breeding in partnership with the late Richard Broadbent, and later served as president of the Indiana Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association. Casse later pulled up stakes to relocate to Florida, where he established his Cardinal Hill Farm.

In 1974, Casse was one of the horsemen who launched the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. He served as its director and, for more than a quarter-century, its chairman. He also served as a director of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association, and sat or assisted on the boards of the Florida Thoroughbred Charities, and Florida Thoroughbred Retirement Program, Florida Farm Managers' Club, and Florida Stallion Station. He was also on the President's Council at the University of Florida.

At Cardinal Hill, Casse co-bred three Florida-bred millionaires: Lost Code as part of Mareinvest83, and Isitingood and Hi Friend Code with the late Harry Katz. Lost Code, a son of Codex, won 15 of 27 starts and bankrolled more than $2 million. His 11 stakes victories included Grade 1 triumphs in the Oaklawn Handicap and Arlington Classic. Isitingood, by Crusader Sword, won four graded stakes. Hi Friend Code, by Casse-campaigned stallion Tunerup, was a Group 2 winner in Japan.

Casse also bred Beldale Ball, a Florida-born son of Nashua who captured the 1980 Melbourne Cup in Australia. Among the other top horses he sold at auction was champion Gilded Time.

Norman Casse, a widower, was followed into the Thoroughbred industry by all three of his sons, including Sovereign Award-winning trainer Mark Casse, who trained his first Eclipse Award winner last year in Tepin and currently conditions several Kentucky Derby candidates. Mark Casse’s son and assistant, Norman, is named for his grandfather.

Norman Casse is also the father of Justin Casse, who operates Casse Sales, and John Casse, who sells equine insurance.