05/31/2011 4:20PM

Woodbine Oaks: Casse doubles his chances with Roxy Gap, Spooky Miss

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Michael Burns
In addition to Roxy Gap (above), trainer Mark Casse will supplement Spooky Miss to Sunday's Woodbine Oaks.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Mark Casse is no stranger to the Woodbine Oaks winner’s circle, having sent out Kimchi and Sealy Hill to capture back-to-back runnings in 2006 and 2007.

On Sunday, Casse will be shooting for an interrupted Woodbine Oaks triple when he sends out both Roxy Gap and Spooky Miss for the 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

Roxy Gap was one of the leading members of her division here last year and the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks had been her primary target heading into her 3-year-old campaign.

Spooky Miss, on the other hand, is a late addition to the Woodbine Oaks picture and would have to be supplemented at a cost of $12,500 when entries are taken on Thursday morning.

Bred by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Spooky Kitten was entered for a $15,000 claiming price in her debut at Turfway Park on March 5 and was a 2 1/2-length winner over 5 1/2 furlongs.

Returning at Keeneland at the $20,000 level on April 13, Spooky Kitten scored by 7 1/4 lengths at six furlongs and attracted a claim by trainer Dale Romans, who took the filly on his own account with an eye toward the program here at Woodbine.

Spooky Kitten shipped in for the April 30 Fury but had to scratch when her papers did not accompany her.

Left here with Casse, Spooky Kitten made her local debut in the 1 1/16-mile La Lorgnette and finished fifth, beaten 2 3/4 lengths by Woodbine Oaks favorite Inglorious.

Since then, Romans sold Spooky Kitten to New York-based owner Roddy Valente.

“Originally, Dale wanted to run her in an allowance race,” said Casse. “But I worked her, and she worked so well, and the stake [the La Lorgnette] was coming up pretty light.”

Considering the circumstances, Casse said he believes that Spooky Kitten acquitted herself well in her two-turn debut with Patrick Husbands aboard for the first time.

“Spooky Kitten comes by her name honestly,” said Casse. “She’s very sensitive, about her head.

“When she broke, Patrick grabbed her a little and she turned her head. He had to wrestle with her around the first turn, and down the backstretch.

“He thinks that if he’d just went on with her, it would have been a different story and that she could have actually won the race.”

Husbands was aboard when Spooky Kitten breezed five furlongs in 1:03 here last Saturday.\

Assistant trainer Kathryn Sullivan, who oversaw the workout while Casse spent the long weekend in Florida, said Spooky Kitten worked by herself and finished her last quarter in 24 seconds.

“It was just what Mark wanted,” Sullivan said.

With Husbands sticking with Roxy Gap, Edgar Prado will be shipping in from Kentucky to partner Spooky Kitten in the Woodbine Oaks.

Roxy Gap’s last work deceiving

Roxy Gap, owned and bred by Eugene Melnyk, is heading into the Woodbine Oaks off a three-quarter-length score in the seven-furlong Fury here April 30.

And while there has been much speculation regarding Roxy Gap’s ability to stay the Woodbine Oaks trip, her trainer said he believes the distance will not be an issue.

“She’s a long type of filly; she looks like she’ll run on,” said Casse, who had sent out Roxy Gap to score impressively over one mile of turf in her final start here as a 2-year-old.

“She’ll just go along, and until you ask her to go she won’t go. She really reminds me a lot of Sealy Hill that way.”

Casse also puts much stock in Roxy Gap’s breeze on May 23, when she went five furlongs in 1:01.20 under Husbands while working in company with older stablemate Hanson Heights.

“It may not look it, with the time, but her last breeze was spectacular,” said Casse. “I told Patrick I wanted to put a real strong work into her, since we were going to go a mile and an eighth. She broke off a few lengths behind, but when Patrick smooched to her she took off and finished three lengths in front.”

“She galloped out seven furlongs in 1:28 and a mile in 1:41.60 and he couldn’t pull her up.”

Fury often a key indicator for Oaks

Roxy Gap will be looking to revive a trend by going directly from victory in the Fury to repeat in the Woodbine Oaks.

Capdiva (1997), Kirby’s Song (1998), Touch Dial (1999), and Catch the Ring (2000) all followed that path.

Last year, Roan Inish finished second in the Fury and was victorious when making her next start in the Woodbine Oaks.

Entries for the Woodbine Oaks will close at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday and the field will be announced at noon at WEGZ Stadium Bar in nearby Vaughan.

For the first time, the draw will be streamed live on Woodbine’s website.

Meanwhile, the Woodbine Oaks field remained in flux as of Tuesday with anywhere from eight to 11 fillies expected to answer the bell.

Madrid comes in to ride winner

Jockey Sebastian Madrid had never been to Woodbine prior to last Sunday but now boasts a perfect record here after guiding Bless the Soldier to victory for trainer Wesley Ward in an Ontario-sired maiden race.

“Wesley called me, and asked me if I’d come up to ride the horse,” said Madrid, 44, who currently is based at Presque Isle Downs.
Ward, who won five races here opening day, now has compiled a record of 7-7-2 from 25 starters. Bless the Soldier’s score ended a 12-race winless streak.

Former jockey joins office staff

Doug Gibbons, a former jockey and more recently an agent for rider Robert Landry, is the newest member of Woodbine’s race office team.
Gibbons, 47, is working as an entry clerk

“I’ve done about every job on the racetrack, at some time or other,” said Gibbons, whose gigs included positions as assistant clerk of the scale, colors man, and teletimer operator at Fort Erie while galloping horses in the mornings through the years.

Gibbons rode from 1992 through 1997, winning 452 races from 3,457 mounts. He was Fort Erie’s leading rider with 81 wins in 1996 and second there with 91 wins the following year.

His association with Landry lasted six years, ending when the jockey announced his retirement this past winter.