Casse Barn Loaded With Star Power
By Casey Laughter
The Mark Casse barn has made its winter home at the Palm Meadows training facility in South Florida and has started initial preparations for a very exciting 2017 considering the star power under the veteran trainer’s tutelage; standout horses in the barn are grade 1 winners Classic Empire, Pretty City Dancer and Tepin. Other notable runners include Valadorna, Thirstforlife and Our Stormin Norman, just to name a few.
John Oxley’s Classic Empire, to start off, is the current winter book favorite for the 2017 Kentucky Derby (GI) following his win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) and was given a month off following the Breeders’ Cup, but has now begun his journey back to action. While on vacation, Classic Empire walked the shed row and recently has only been in light training, mostly jogging. Assistant Norman Casse, who is also the trainer’s son, indicated that Classic Empire would resume more intensive training at the end of the month.
Classic Empire has been a hot topic for most of his career. Aside from his debacle in the Hopeful Stakes (GI) he was nearly perfect entering the Breeders’ Cup.
“He has shown his antics from time to time, but overall, he has always been a very mature horse,” Norman Casse said. “He is a very intelligent horse.”
Classic Empire is a son of Pioneerof the Nile out of a mare by Cat Thief, who is a son of Storm Cat. This line breeding is already proven successful, having produced the 12th Triple Crown winner in American Pharoah.
“We obviously like to compare him to American Pharoah,” Casse said. “They have a similar pedigree, but in my opinion, more importantly, they have a similar disposition. He (Classic Empire) is as cool as it gets. He has a good mind and just loves being a racehorse.”
Some horses by Pioneerof the Nile have displayed a more feisty side than others, but that characteristic hasn’t applied to Classic Empire, or even American Pharoah.
“That disposition, in my opinion, is what allowed American Pharoah to do things we’ve never seen before,” Casse said.
What path Classic Empire takes to the Kentucky Derby will be determined at a later time as he’s only in light training. For now, though, he is transitioning into his 3-year-old self well. He has maintained a very healthy weight, his coat looks fantastic and all around is maturing well.
Casse also has top Kentucky Oaks (GI) prospects in both Valadorna, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) runner-up, and Spinaway Stakes (GI) winner Pretty City Dancer. Valadorna was given a vacation after the Breeders’ Cup and is being pointed to the Kentucky Oaks with a likely path through the Fair Grounds.
Pretty City Dancer missed some time, but is back now and looks great, according to Casse. She has put on weight and matured well since Saratoga.
“We think she is an Oaks-capable horse,” Casse said.
Some of the best aspects of every Casse horse is that they are easy to handle and get along with. When it comes to Pretty City Dancer, the Tapit in her could easily cause her to be feisty, but Casse instead, she is “just a cool, cool horse to be around and easy to get along with.”
Casse also said the barn’s two Delta Downs Jackpot (GIII) runners, Thirstforlife and Our Stormin Norman, who both disappointed in Louisiana, will likely get another chance in stakes company. Thirstforlife is getting some time off, as he had a lengthy juvenile campaign, having begun his career way back in the summer. Our Stormin Norman is getting some time off as well.
“(Our Stormin Norman) may turn into a one-turn specialist, as he may have some distance limitations,” Casse revealed of the colt who is by Blame and out of a Stroll mare.
We all know the Casse barn has one of the top racehorses currently active today in champion Tepin. The about-to-be 6-year-old daughter of Bernstein has been off since her runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (GIT), but is starting to get back into light training and will likely begin breezing by the end new year. Tepin may show up at Tampa Bay Downs in the Lambholm South Endeavor Stakes (GIIIT) before a possible trip to Dubai.
Overall the Casse barn is one of the most well assembled in the sport, holding many top horses on all surfaces and distances. The younger Casse understands that they are not in the position by accident, but instead are due to all the hard work they have put in over the years.
“All the horses are really awesome horses to be around,” Casse said. “They love being racehorses. They just love people. A lot of times you have horses who are nasty, almost dangerous and they are not as fun to be around, even when they are successful. These horses obviously love to win, but they are also fun to be around.”
“It may be a testament to our crew and the way we treat our horses. We don’t take for granted where we are and the opportunity,” Casse said.