03/12/2011 10:01AM

Ocala Day of Champions races lure promising pair from Casse

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Barbara D. Livingston
Delightful Mary begins her 3-year-old campaign at Ocala on Monday.

A step in the direction of the Kentucky Oaks is what trainer Mark Casse is seeking Monday at the annual Day of Champions in Ocala, Fla. Casse will send out Delightful Mary and Silent Moon, both owned by John Oxley, in the filly division of the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Championship.

“Hopefully they’ll both run well, and we can really start thinking about having three fillies in the Oaks for Mr. Oxley,” said Casse

Delightful Mary and Silent Moon will be trying to join Dancinginherdreams, trained by John T. Ward Jr., in becoming viable contenders for the May 6 Oaks at Churchill Downs. Delightful Mary, third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall at Churchill, will be making her 3-year-old debut in the $100,000 Filly Championship, which goes at 1 1/16 miles.

The OBS Filly Championship is carded as the third of four races, all of them betless exhibitions, with first post set for 1 p.m. Eastern. All races are run over a one-mile Safetrack synthetic surface.

Delightful Mary has been so highly regarded that she was a separately listed wagering interest in the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager March 11-13.

“We gave her a little break, about 30 days at the farm,” Casse said from Ocala. “She’s been training here at OBS, and we thought that since she’s eligible for this, it’d be a nice fit for a first race back.”

Casse said the tentative plan for both her and Silent Moon, a winner in 2 of 3 starts, is to run back in the April 9 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, “assuming all goes well Monday. Silent Moon is a pretty good filly in her own right. We’re just thinking the same kind of thing for both fillies – let’s judge them on how they run and go from there.”

Five other 3-year-old fillies will oppose the Casse duo Monday. Shaun Bridgmohan has the mount on Delightful Mary, and Rajiv Maragh rides Silent Moon.

In the other Day of Champions events:

* $100,000 OBS Championship, colt and gelding division (race 4): Casse and Oxley also have two in this 1 1/16-mile race, with Strike Oil more likely to prevail than Powerman, a maiden. Other contenders in a field of eight include Tapilu, Reprized Halo, and Extended Family, trained by Dale Romans. Last year, Romans won this race with Quiet All American.

* $50,000 OBS Sprint, colt and gelding division (race 2): All but one of the eight 3-year-olds in here will ship from south Florida, with Gangsterontherun clearly the one to beat. Trained by Wesley Ward, the City Zip gelding comes off an allowance victory in which he earned a 96 Beyer. Alex Solis rides again Monday.

* $50,000 OBS Sprint, filly division (race 1): If betting were allowed, surely Holiday Flare would be a huge favorite for trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez. The filly earned an 89 Beyer Speed Figure in a recent maiden victory and looks superior in a field of 10.

The OBS races were devised and continue to exist largely as a financial incentive to breeders and buyers of horses that go through the OBS sales ring. All races are restricted to OBS-sold horses, with owners maintaining eligibility for their horses through futurity-style payments. OBS hosts year-round simulcasting on its property but is not allowed to accept bets on its one day of live racing.

Ocala has a modest grandstand, with results and race times posted on an infield board. Calder announcer Bobby Neuman provides the race calls. There is no television coverage of the races, although streaming video and other useful information and services are available on the website obssales.com.

The OBS purses peaked in 2008 and 2009, when Darley helped sponsor five races worth a total of $425,000. That sponsorship was dropped last year, when the program reverted to four races worth $300,000. Inaugurated in 1990, the series has had races won by such standouts as Forever Together, Traitor, Golden Bri, Meadow Monster, Plenty of Light, and Valid Video.

Last year, the Ocala races were held in mid-February to coincide with the 2-year-old OBS sales that traditionally had been held at that time, but that sale was consolidated with the select sale taking place Tuesday and Wednesday.