12/23/2013 8:29AM

Santa Anita: Cassidy looking to rebound in 2014

Tom Keyser
Trainer Jim Cassidy will start Holy Lute in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes on Thursday at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Forgive trainer Jim Cassidy if he is eager to turn the calendar to 2014. Considering the events of the past year, on and off the track, there are a lot of reasons to look ahead.

In 2013, Cassidy has gone a third straight season without winning a Grade 1 race. He took a shot at it, when Holy Lute finished 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last month at Santa Anita, though he will have one last chance with that same colt in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes on opening day. The stable won its first graded stakes since the summer of 2010 when Full Ransom won the Grade 3 Miesque Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park last month.

Cassidy’s stable has earned $1,143,106 this year, improving over its 2012 mark of $716,686 but far from the career-best of $2,038,550 he posted n 2010. This has not been a good year from Cassidy’s perspective.

“I expected more,” Cassidy said. “We had a lot of injuries; 2013 has not been fun.”

At least at that moment, Cassidy was thinking about the sport of racing and his 36-horse stable. In addition to those duties, Cassidy is the president of the California Thoroughbred Trainers association. There is no salary for the job, which requires ample attention.

“It’s about 15 to 20 hours a week, more if there are a bunch of meetings,” he said.

[Santa Anita opening day: Get PPs, watch Thursday's card live]

As president, Cassidy can hardly spend an hour during morning training at his base at Santa Anita without being approached by someone with a business question about racing. He said the job and its frustrations are worth it.

“I do it because I’m a thorn,” he said. “I’m trying to do something. My whole intention was to get as much attention to the CTT.”

For trainers, Cassidy is a sounding board, a person who can try to resolve issues affecting the backstretch. The biggest topic in 2013 was solving the problem of auxiliary stabling for 2014 with the permanent closure of Hollywood Park’s barn area in January. Going forward, horses will stable at Santa Anita as well as Barretts Sales and Racing at the Los Angeles County Fair, Los Alamitos, and the San Luis Rey Downs training center.

Earlier this month, Cassidy was unable to take a hands-on approach on CTT matters while serving a 15-day suspension for a clenbuterol positive found in the maiden race winner Van Dien Avenue during the summer at Del Mar. The suspension prohibited Cassidy from being on racetrack properties, which forced him to conduct CTT business via e-mail and phone.

The suspension, along with a $3,000 fine, was part of a stipulated agreement with the California Horse Racing Board for the infraction. Cassidy said he does not administer the bronchodilator clenbuterol, and that the level of medication found in the test indicated that administration occurred within 24 hours of the race.

He fears he was the victim of foul play.

“It was no accident,” he said. “We don’t carry it. They searched the barn and never found a drop of it. It was a criminal act, but good luck trying to find out who it was. It shows you how vulnerable you are.”

During the suspension, Cassidy did not have any starters through an assistant trainer, a common practice for suspended trainers. Cassidy returned to daily training on Dec. 17, in time to prepare the stable for the start of the Santa Anita meeting.

On Thursday, Cassidy has runners in two of the three stakes for 3-year-olds – Holy Lute in the $300,000 Malibu at seven furlongs and the improving Tom’s Tribute in the Grade 2, $200,000 Sir Beaufort at a mile on turf.

Holy Lute won the El Cajon Stakes at Del Mar in August in his stakes debut. He has not raced since the Dirt Mile.

“I think he can run seven furlongs to a mile,” Cassidy said. “He seems to want to hang a little going farther.”

Tom’s Tribute won the Uniformity Stakes on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita in October, his second consecutive win. The Sir Beaufort is the graded stakes debut for Tom’s Tribute.

“He seems to show up every time,” Cassidy said.

There are two 3-year-old fillies expected to play important roles in Cassidy’s stable in 2014 – Oscar Party and Bunairgead.

Oscar Party, purchased for $510,000 at the Paddock Sale at Del Mar in July, will miss Thursday’s Grade 1 La Brea Stakes because of a throat abscess. She was third in the Zia Park Oaks in New Mexico in late November and could start in the La Canada Stakes on Jan. 19.

In November, Cassidy acquired Bunairgead, a minor stakes winner in Ireland. She was purchased for approximately $700,000 at the Goffs November breeding stock sale in Ireland on behalf of Deron Pearson, of Valencia, Calif. Pearson, the chief executive of the telecommunications firm Nexus, owns Oscar Party.

In 2014, those runners could give Cassidy a season to rival 2010, when he won five graded stakes, including three Grade 1 races, with Evening Jewel and The Usual Q. T.

The official record-keeping starts next Wednesday, Jan. 1. For Cassidy, the season begins Thursday.