Edited Press Release
With several promising three-year-olds for 2016 in his stable, trainer Mark Casse has the enviable task of scheduling their respective 2015 early-season campaigns, which he hopes will make him a busy man on the first Saturday in May.
Casse has opted to point Conquest Big E toward Gulfstream Park’s sophomore series, starting with the $350,000 Holy Bull S. (G2) on January 30.
“I just think he suits that racetrack a little bit better than some of the others,” explained Casse, who is a defending nine-time Woodbine training champion.
Conquest Big E has been training brilliantly at Palm Meadows Training Center under the supervision of Casse’s son and assistant, Norm. The gray son of Tapit has turned in a pair of sharp works in :48 seconds, a bullet on December 31 and the second-fastest of 76 at the distance on Saturday.
The $700,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase finished second in his September 11 debut going a mile at Churchill Downs after breaking in the air, then won a 1 1/16-mile maiden contest over Keeneland’s sloppy main track in his second lifetime start on October 2.
Conquest Big E’s connections decided to give him a shot at Breeders’ Cup glory, but he could only manage an eighth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). However, the Kentucky-bred rebounded with a sharp two-length allowance score at Churchill Downs on November 28.
“I just thought he suffered from greenness in the Juvenile. He’s still learning and he was between horses,” Casse noted. “I thought his last race, when he won at Churchill, he got a lot out of it.”
The winter season promises to be an exciting one for Casse.
“We think we have three or four or five legitimate Derby horses. But you know how that goes – you need a lot of luck,” Casse said. “Now, from this point on, it’s holding your breath, because any little thing that goes wrong puts them out of the picture.”
As for his other leading Triple Crown prospects, Airoforce is slated to compete at Tampa Bay Downs while Conquest Windycity is headed to Oaklawn Park.
Airoforce captured the November 28 Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) last out at Churchill Downs in his first try on dirt. Prior to that, the Colonel John colt had broken his maiden over Kentucky Downs’ turf, scored in the grassy Bourbon S. (G3) at Keeneland and finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at that latter track.
Conquest Windycity also began his career on turf, running second in his August 8 debut at Saratoga, but then switched to the main track to finish fourth in the Iroquois S. (G3) at Churchill. The dark bay son of Tiznow broke his maiden at Keeneland in his last outing on October 2.
Plans for Siding Spring, a six-length debut winner on the Kentucky Downs turf, haven’t been firmed up. The Warrior’s Reward colt followed his initial score with a third in the Bourbon before transitioning to dirt for a 10th-place run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile most recently.
While none of his colts could get the job done on Breeders’ Cup Friday and Saturday, Casse still enjoyed a career achievement by saddling a pair of Breeders’ Cup winners for the first time. Catch a Glimpse gave the trainer his very first win in the championship event when taking the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). Tepin then turned in a spectacular performance one day later to beat the boys in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).
“It was a special day for me and my family and everyone involved with the horse,” Casse said.
Airoforce photo courtesy of Keeneland/Coady Photography