By Christie DeBernardis
It was a very good weekend for trainer Mark Casse with two graded stakes victories and a pair of nice maiden winners, including a “TDN Rising Star” performance from Telekinesis (Ghostzapper). The conditioner is already planning ahead for his weekend winners, as well as, hoping for another successful Saturday with two talented fillies entered in the GII Rachel Alexandra S. at Fair Grounds.
Casse’s newly crowned champion World Approval (Northern Afleet) took his win streak into 2018 with a half-length score in the 1 1/16-mile GIII Tampa Bay S. Saturday (video). The GI Breeders’ Cup Mile hero was under consideration for Dubai, but Casse said they would bypass the carnival and stay in America instead.
“Going back and watching the replay and the gallop out, I know he was a little short going into the race, but that was not Grade I company that he beat,” said Casse. “So, given that, we just think it is a smart idea to keep him home and keep him at a mile. We are flirting with the [GI Frank E.] Kilroe Mile [Mar. 10 at Santa Anita] and the [GI] Maker’s 46 Mile [Apr. 13 at Keeneland].”
The Indiana native continued, “I decided that [going to Dubai] was just pushing it. A mile is his best distance and to go and try to run almost a mile and an eighth against the best in the world is not fair to him. Johnny [Velazquez], Mrs. Weber and I talked about it the following day. Johnny agrees a mile is his game and Mrs. Weber agrees with that, so we are not going to push it. We are going to focus on a mile. I am not saying he can’t run further than a mile, but it is proven fact for him that a mile is his game for his best performance.”
World Approval’s victory was the second straight graded win of the day for Casse, who captured the GIII Sam F. Davis S. one race prior with Flameaway (Scat Daddy) (video). The John Oxley colorbearer won an off-the-turf renewal of the GIII Dixana Bourbon S. last term, after which he returned to the grass, finishing eighth in the GI Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf Nov. 3 and winning the Kitten’s Joy S. Jan. 6.
“He is going to the [GII] Tampa Bay Derby [Mar. 10],” Casse said. “He won on the turf and there really isn’t a whole lot out there for turf, so Mr. Oxley said, ‘Would we consider running him on dirt again?’ I said, ‘Well, let’s see how he trains and if he trains good, we will try it.’ And, he did, so we did.”
Casse was also represented by GIII Endeavour S. runner-up La Coronel (Colonel John) at Tampa Saturday. He is pointing that talented turf distaffer to the GII Hillsborough S. there Mar. 10.
While those runners have already proven to be talented stakes horses, Casse unveiled a 3-year-old colt who appears poised to join their ranks in Telekinesis. Originally scheduled to make his debut in New Orleans Jan. 28, the $470,000 KEENOV buy was scratched after flipping over in the paddock, but made up for it Friday with an impressive 3 1/4-length graduation.
“He is extremely talented,” Casse said. “I am not sure what we are going to do with, but we think he is a future star. I haven’t come up with a second race yet, but probably two turns.”
Casse had another 3-year-old colt hint at his future potential in He Takes Charge (Tapit), who bobbled at the start and raced wide, but still came home a 2 1/4-length winner at Gulfstream Saturday.
Off the board in his first two tries on turf, the $625,000 KEESEP purchase finished in the money in his last two attempts on the dirt in Hallandale prior to his graduation. The gray’s second dam is blue hen and MGISW Take Charge Lady, who produced champion Will Take Charge (Unbridled’s Song) and GISW Take Charge Indy (A.P Indy).
“He Takes Charge to me is the diamond in the rough,” Casse said. “I think he did everything wrong. He acted poorly before the race. He acted poorly in the paddock. He acted poorly in the post parade. He was up and down and all around in the race. He pulled himself up when he made the lead and still ran an 82 Beyer. I think he has a bright future. We just have to get him to focus more.”
While he did not win his last start, Mississippi (Pioneerof the Nile) has flashed his talent in his last three races and is poised to take a crack at the GI Kentucky Derby trail for the Casse barn. Earning his diploma at second asking at Churchill in November, the $700,000 FTFMAR buy checked in second behind undefeated “TDN Rising Star” and GII Risen Star S. contender Noble Indy (Take Charge Indy) in a Gulfstream allowance Jan. 11. He missed by just a neck last time in Hallandale Feb. 4, but finished 9 1/4 lengths clear of the third-place finisher.
“He is probably going to go to the [GII] Rebel [S. at Oaklawn Mar. 17], but I don’t know for sure yet,” Casse said. “I thought his last race was good. He is learning. I want to try and get him on a racetrack that is not as speed biased as Gulfstream can be, so that is why I am going to take him out of there.”
Casse has a pair of sophomore fillies set to take their next steps towards the GI Kentucky Oaks this Saturday in MGSW “TDN Rising Star” Wonder Gadot (Medaglia d’Oro) and GI Darley Alcibiades S. winner Heavenly Love (Malibu Moon).
“Both of them are good,” Casse said. “They are sitting on top races. We will just find out if they are good enough. It is not an easy race, but we are ready.”