TORONTO, June 14 – With 17 horses entered on Sunday’s card at Woodbine, six-time Sovereign Award winning trainer Mark Casse is certain to be a factor on a classic day at the Rexdale oval that features the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, as well as the $150,000 Plate Trial Stakes.
In addition to saddling Lexie Lou and Wild Catomine in the Oaks, Casse will send out Majestic Sunset in the Plate Trial and an incredible seven of the 12 starters in the grassy Alywow Stakes.
“That’s the most I’ve ever had in one race,” said Casse. “Right now, I would say all of them will go. At this time of year, if you don’t have a Canadian-bred or Ontario-sired horse, the options are limited and we have a lot of fillies waiting to run somewhere.”
Casse has captured just about every key stake event offered at Woodbine, but the one missing feather in the conditioner’s cap is the Queen’s Plate, Canada’s most famous horse race.
On Sunday, 12-1 shot Majestic Sunset will try to break his maiden when tackling a talented field of seven in the 1 1/8-miles Plate Trial headed by the accomplished We Miss Artie.
“Majestic Sunset is training well,” said Casse of the Artie Schiller colt who sports a record of 0-2-2 from eight starts. “Every time we breeze him we come away scratching our heads as to how he’s still a maiden.
“I remember six or seven years ago we had a horse named Arch Hall that we thought so much of. It took him eight tries to break his maiden and then he went on and won about $700,000 ($729,888) after that. Majestic Sunset reminds me a little of him.”
Majestic Sunset arrives at his latest challenge off a troubled sixth-place run in a 10-horse maiden allowance tilt won by Plate Trial rival Tower of Texas.
“His last race was just disastrous,” said Casse. “He had the outside post and ran so much further than everybody else so I just threw that one out.”
However, his previous effort at Keeneland when a late-closing second on the lawn under rider Alan Garcia convinced Casse there’s still talent to be mined.
“His race at Keeneland was very good and that’s the reason Alan Garcia is coming up to ride,” said Casse. “I think this horse needs a really late ride, to come running late, and Alan rode Kaigun for us a couple of times that way. The one time Alan rode Majestic Sunset at Keeneland, if he had another jump or so he would have won.”
Casse remains cautiously optimistic about his colt’s chances in Sunday’s test.
“It’s hard to look at him and say he’s a Queen’s Plate horse, but in the back of my mind I know this horse has a lot of ability but he’s running out of time. He’ll need to put it together this weekend,” said Casse.
While Casse will send out a longshot in the Plate Trial, his Oaks starters are certain to pique the interest of the betting public.
Lexie Lou, a private purchase by owner Gary Barber, boasts stakes wins in the Muskoka and South Ocean Stakes and responded well to new rider Patrick Husbands last time out when a closing third in the Fury Stakes won by stablemate Wild Catomine.
“Her last race was very good,” said Casse. “She had a bit of a wide trip but, more importantly, it was Patrick Husbands riding her for the first time and I think he learned a few key things. We’ll take the blinkers off her on Sunday.
“She missed a bit of time as she bruised her foot in the Fury and needed some time off but she trained exceptionally well last week. I don’t see any reason why she won’t give us 100 percent.”
Wild Catomine, a bay daughter of Milwaukee Brew-Dynamite Cocktail, is perfect in two career starts but has yet to travel further than seven furlongs.
“She’s two for two but she’s never gone two turns and to go a mile and an eighth is tough,” said Casse. “She’s bred for it, but until you see her do it you just don’t know.”
Purchased for $111,529 at the September Yearling Sale, Wild Catomine took some time to reach her potential, missing out on her entire juvenile campaign.
“Last year we had her in Ocala for the winter and we thought she was one of our best two-year-old fillies, but when we got her up to Woodbine, she just didn’t train the way that she had in Florida,” said Casse. “We kept training her for a few months at Woodbine, but we were never comfortable she was at her best so finally we just sent her home, turned her out and gave her some time off.”
Gary Boulanger, aboard for both wins this season, has been a regular partner in the morning putting Wild Catomine through her paces.
“When Gary worked her this winter in Florida he said, ‘She’s back!’” said Casse. “She’s back to the filly we thought she was before and Gary has been very instrumental in her career development thus far. He has a lot of confidence in her and we wouldn’t be where we are with her if it wasn’t for Gary’s work and I appreciate that.
“When you ride for us it’s not just in the afternoon. There’s a lot of work in the morning and our group of jockeys make up a great part of the team.”
The Plate Trial, at one mile and one-eighth on Polytrack for Canadian foaled three-year-olds, will be televised live on TSN2 as part of a special one and one-half hour presentation on Woodbine Oaks day.
Post time for the Plate Trial is 5:10 p.m., while the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, for Canadian-bred three-year-old fillies, goes at 5:45 p.m.
First post on Sunday’s 11-race card is 1:00 p.m. Fans can watch and wager on the card via HorsePlayer Interactive.