06/03/2013 3:56PM

Woodbine notes: Casse, Contreras have big weekend in stakes

Michael Burns
Laugh Track, ridden by Luis Contreras for trainer Mark Casse, got his first stakes win in Sunday's Vigil.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Mark Casse was in Ocala, Fla., last weekend, but his Woodbine forces were in full flight as Laugh Track and Delightful Mary gave the stable a sweep of the weekend stakes.

Delightful Mary got the ball rolling Saturday with a one-length victory in the Grade 3, $150,000 Hendrie for fillies and mares. Laugh Track, not to be outdone, captured Sunday’s Grade 3, $156,000 Vigil by a half-length over two-time reigning Canadian sprint champion and odds-on favorite Esssence Hit Man. Luis Contreras rode both winners.

Laugh Track, a 4-year-old colt owned by Gary Barber in partnership with Kenny Troutt’s WinStar Farm, got his first stakes win in the seven-furlong Vigil.

“We got him at 2 for Winstar, and he showed a lot of talent, but he got hurt after his first start,” Casse said. “We got him back at 3 and ran him a few times. WinStar sells a bunch of their horses in the fall at Keeneland, and I told Gary Barber about him. Gary bought him, and then WinStar bought half of him back. We had some issues with him this winter, just a foot issue. Now, he’s back and going strong.”

Laugh Track has won sprinting and around two turns on Polytrack, and he has run well on turf. Casse believes his fifth-place finish on dirt in Churchill’s Grade 2 Alysheba last month was not a true indication of the horse’s ability on that surface.

“I think he can run on the dirt,” Casse said. “We had some poor strategy. We tried to rate him, and he didn’t care for it all.”

All of which gives Casse plenty of options with Laugh Track.

“We’re thinking of possibly going to Del Mar,” Casse said. “I’m not really sure what we’ll do with him yet.”

Delightful Mary’s career could have been over when she bowed a tendon during Aqueduct’s Grade 2 Top Flight, run over a muddy surface March 3, 2012. But patience and lots of loving care paid off handsomely when Delightful Mary returned to action here Saturday to win the Hendrie.

“She seems to have come back bigger and stronger,” said Casse, who trains Delightful Mary for John Oxley. “I’m quite proud of our farm. We had Seaside Retreat and Pool Play come back from the same type of injury. To have her come back was quite rewarding.”

Seaside Retreat was away from the races for 14 months but returned to win three races, including Woodbine’s Grade 2 Nijinsky in summer 2008. Pool Play missed more than a year but returned last summer and later captured the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup.

Delightful Mary actually was ready to run about a month ago.

“She had a little setback,” Casse said. “She popped a splint, so we had to give her a little time for that. It’s been one little thing after another, but we felt pretty confident going into Saturday’s race.”

Delightful Mary also has run well going long on both dirt and synthetic surfaces, but Casse has no target in mind for the Florida-bred 5-year-old mare.

“I was just worried about getting by that first race,” he said.

The upcoming weekend could be another big one for Casse, who plans to be active in four of the five stakes here. On Sunday, Spring in the Air will be one of the favorites in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, Dynamic Sky and Jagger M will run in the $150,000 Plate Trial, and Spring Venture and Jadira will go in the $125,000 Alywow. On Saturday, Casse plans to run Sisterly Love in the $125,000 Trillium.

Spring in the Air, who is coming off a win here in the seven-furlong Fury, breezed five furlongs on the main track here Sunday in 1:00.20.

“She’s doing really well,” Casse said. “We’re really excited about the race.”

Jagger M also worked on the main track Sunday, breezing five furlongs in 1:01.80, while Dynamic Sky had his major Plate Trial tune-up here Saturday with five furlongs in 1:01.40.

“They both just kind of went about their business,” Casse said.

The Casse stable also is looking forward to the return of Roxy Gap and Dixie Strike to the races. Roxy Gap, who took home Sovereign Awards as Canada’s 2012 champion older female and champion female sprinter for owner and breeder Eugene Melnyk, arrived here last Friday.

“She’s about 30 days away from running,” said Casse, adding that Roxy Gap had been breezing at Melnyk’s Winding Oaks Farm in Florida.

Dixie Strike, the runner-up in the voting for Canada’s champion 3-year-old filly for owner John Oxley, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40 at the Ocala Training Center last Friday.

“One more breeze and she’s coming up,” Casse said. “She’s probably 45 days away from a race. She’s really grown up and looks tremendous.”

Woodbine Oaks contenders breeze

Nipissing and Pink Trillium, both candidates for the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, breezed on the main track here Monday. Regular rider Steven Bahen was aboard Nipissing, who was clocked in 48.20 seconds for four furlongs.

“He worked well,” said Rachel Halden, who trains the homebred for Chiefswood Stable and caught the filly galloping out five furlongs in 1:01.60. “She always gallops out very strong.”

Pink Trillium, with Contreras up, worked five furlongs in 1:00.40.

Trainer Malcolm Pierce sent out his Woodbine Oaks contenders, Smartyfly and Dance Again, to breeze five furlongs on the main track here Sunday. Smartyfly, with jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva in the irons, was clocked in 1:03.40.

“It was a little slow, but that’s all right,” Pierce said.

Dance Again went in company with His Race to Win, who his headed for the Plate Trial. Both were clocked in 1:00.80.

“They went head-and-head all the way,” Pierce said.

As of Monday morning, the field of Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies for the Woodbine Oaks was expected to include Spring in the Air (Joel Rosario), Nipissing, Smartyfly, Dance Again (Shaun Bridgmohan), Pink Trillium (Contreras), Rutherford Rd (Justin Stein), and Tiz Ro (Todd Kabel).

Holy Whirl Wind eyes Plate Trial

The Plate Trial gained a player over the weekend when Reade Baker announced the candidacy of Holy Whirl Wind, whom he trains for Jim and Susan Hill.

Holy Whirl Wind, who is winless in three starts, finished second April 25 in a maiden race going about seven furlongs at Keeneland in his 2013 debut and then set the pace before weakening slightly to end up fourth here in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race.

Last Saturday, Holy Whirl Wind breezed five furlongs in 1:02.60 on the training track.

◗ Kabel has picked up the mount on River Seven for the Plate Trial. Trained by Nick Gonzalez, River Seven breezed five furlongs in 59.80 under exercise rider Darren Fortune here Sunday.