06/20/2012 12:50PM

Woodbine: Casse mounts another three-pronged attack on Queen's Plate

Michael Burns
Dixie Strike will be one of three Mark Casse-trained runners in Sunday's Queen's Plate.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Mark Casse started three horses in the Queen’s Plate last year, with his best result a second-place finish for Hippolytus.

Casse also started three fillies in this year’s Woodbine Oaks, with his best result a second-place finish by Northern Passion.

On Sunday, Casse is coming into the $1 million Queen’s Plate with another triple-threat as Dixie Strike, Making Amends, and Golden Ridge all are set for the 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

And the Casse trio are coming in from different directions as Dixie Strike finished a disappointing fifth in the June 3 Woodbine Oaks, Making Amends ran sixth in the June 3 Plate Trial, and Golden Ridge won his maiden here May 13.

Dixie Strike, owned by John Oxley, was the 4-5 favorite in the Woodbine Oaks, but was beaten 2 1/2 lengths by winner Irish Mission, who also is returning for the Queen’s Plate.

Three weeks earlier, Dixie Strike had recorded a career-best 89 Beyer Speed Figure when winning the 1 1/16-mile Selene.

“If you’re a numbers person, she was going to bounce in the Oaks,” Casse said. “Add on that she had a tooth abscess and had a temperature about a week earlier and she missed three days. Just when you get down to the nitty-gritty, that’s not what you want to see, especially the temperature.

“She trained fine for the last three or four days, but from a numbers standpoint, she ran a very flat race in the Oaks. If she’d repeated her last race, she would have galloped.”

Dixie Strike came back to breeze here last Friday, getting five furlongs in 1:00.80 with blinkers on and regular rider Patrick Husbands in the irons.

“Patrick had been begging me to put blinkers on her,” Casse said. “He’s always said she sees too much. She’s looking around, more worried about the other horses.”

Making Amends, who races for Casse’s wife, Tina, in partnership with Harvey Swartz and Richard Lederman, was beaten 8 3/4 lengths in the Plate Trial under regular rider Eurico Rosa da Silva.

“That was his first two-turn race,” Casse said. “He rated and was running down along the inside and was pinned in by Big Creek for a quarter-mile.

“Eurico said if he could have got out, he felt he could have been second.”

Making Amends was beaten 3 1/2 lengths by Plate Trial runner-up Incredicat, who is not returning for the Queen’s Plate. River Rush won the Plate Trial by 5 1/4 lengths.

Big Creek, a Saratoga shipper trained by Todd Pletcher, was 6 1/2 lengths behind the winner as the fourth-place finisher and also will be returning for the Plate.

Golden Ridge, a homebred who races for Eugene Melnyk, was unraced at 2 and joined Casse at Palm Meadows last December.

Debuting at Gulfstream on March 2, Golden Ridge finished third, beaten a half-length over 1 1/16 miles of turf. Six weeks later at Keeneland, Golden Ridge missed by a neck as the runner-up over 1 1/16 miles of Polytrack.

In his local debut, with Luis Contreras in the irons, Golden Ridge stalked the pace after breaking from post 10 in a field of 11 and then rolled to a 2 1/2-length victory.

“He made a big move in his first race, but flattened out,” Casse said. “In his second race, the winner was on the lead, and he couldn’t run him down.

“But I thought his last race was very good. He showed an explosive turn of foot. Luis asked him, and he ran by them. It would be better if he had a few more races, but I’m very happy with the way things have turned out.”

Hippolytus, who had been Casse’s best Queen’s Plate finisher from his 10 starters through five runnings, had to be euthanized this spring.

“He hurt himself in the paddock and just kept deteriorating,” Casse said.

Hippolytus, an Ontario-sired son of Philanthropist, also finished second in the Ontario Derby, Elgin, and Kingarvie and third in the Bunty Lawless. His 15 lifetime outings yielded 2 wins, 5 seconds, and 3 thirds for earnings of $458,450.

Casse has Hothersal in King Edward

Casse also is looking forward to running Hothersal in Sunday’s King Edward, a one-mile turf stakes that offers Grade 2 status and a purse of $250,000.

Hothersal, new to Casse’s barn this year, finished third when making his stakes debut here May 26 in the 1 1/16-mile Eclipse Stakes, which was his third start of this season and fifth of his career.

"I think for making his third start in more than a year he did pretty good,” said Casse, who trains the homebred 4-year-old Hothersal for Melnyk.

Casse is more excited by the fact that Hothersal has finished a close second in each of his two turf starts to horses who subsequently won graded stakes in their next outings.

Hothersal was beaten a neck in his debut by Data Link, who has won Keeneland’s Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile and the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes this year.

Casino Host, who defeated Hothersal in his first start for Casse at Gulfstream, won the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Handicap at the Fair Grounds in his next outing.

“Our feeling has been that he’s been a better horse on turf,” Casse said.

Queen’s Plate handicapping seminar

On Saturday, Woodbine television personalities Jeff Bratt and Sandy Hawley will be hosting a Queen’s Plate handicapping seminar beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the trackside tent on the third floor of the grandstand.

The session will afford attendees a view of the Polytrack training session, which closes at 10 a.m.

Jockey Jim McAleney, who will ride leading candidate River Rush in the Queen’s Plate, and Darwin Banach, who trains contender Classic Bryce, are scheduled to join Bratt and Hawley following training hours.

There also will be plenty of peripheral action here on Queen’s Plate Day.

A “Hats & Horseshoes” fashion party and Woodbine’s first food truck festival will be held in the area south of the walking ring.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride will perform on the main track during the afternoon.