Trainer Mark Casse hesitated and then said it. "I think we've got about eight millionaires in the barn. Wow. That's something when you think about it." Then he started counting. "Kaigun, Dynamic Sky, Lexie Lou, Za Approval - they're in Canada. And here we've got Tepin, Catch A Glimpse and . . . well, maybe there's only six. I think there's one more though. That's going to bother me." (Editor's note: Originallay published in July 23 issue of The Saratoga Special.)
Not really. He's not bothered in the least by the quality in his barn and his point is well made. Things are rolling for Casse Racing. Classy horses pop out of pretty much every corner of shedrows in New York, Canada, Kentucky and Florida.
Casse is fourth on the national earnings list behind Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen and Chad Brown with $8.25 million. Champion Tepin rides a seven-race winning streak dating back to two narrow losses here last summer, and is a legitimate Horse of the Year candidate. Nearly a millionaire, World Approval has also blossomed, winning a Grade 1 last out at Monmouth Park. Another nearing seven figures, Noble Bird took the Pimlico Special in May and could show up in the Whitney off a half-mile move in :47.66 Friday.
The trainer has 30 stalls in his barn near the three-eighths pole of the main track, and - though he won't set concrete goals - hopes to better last year's three wins at the meet.
"Last year was a weird year," he said. "We didn't win a lot of races, but we lost three or four stakes by inche. That can happen here. Sometimes those inches come back and go your way. We're not complaining. I would just love to go out as healthy as we are now. Our horses are good right now. I wouldn't set any goals. I don't expect to be the leading trainer. We don't have the numbers for that."
The Saratoga string will be a mix of stakes horses, 2-year-olds and others rotating in and out depending on the condition book and the entry boxes at Saratoga, Woodbine and other spots.
Pausing to reflect on Tepin, World Approval and some of the other stars, Casse went through a few names in the barn with The Special's Joe Clancy Friday morning.
Tepin: After losing two photo finishes here last year, she's done nothing but win on the world's biggest stages including Royal Ascot last month. She's aiming for the Fourstardave against males Aug. 13 and worked an easy half-mile on the turf in :50.42 Friday morning for jockey Julien Leparoux. "Well, she breezed great. She'll have a little better, stronger work next week. I'm looking at the timing and if we ran in the Ballston Spa (Aug. 27) it would only give us three weeks (to the Woodbine Mile). If we went just to the Woodbine Mile, you're talking about three months between races. She likes to run. I go by the Allen Jerkens thing - if they're good, run them. We don't train her that hard. The Fourstardave gives us five weeks to the Woodbine Mile and then we can decide whether we want to go right to the Breeders' Cup or we might put another race into her at Keeneland."
World Approval: The 4-year-old won the United Nations at Monmouth July 3 and worked a half-mile in :48.72 Friday for jockey Florent Geroux. The Arlington Million or the Sword Dancer are on his card. "They're worried about how far he'll go, but Florent got off him today and said he's like driving a car on cruise control. You push the button and he takes off."
Conquest Big E: He's only 3, but Casse called him a "blast from the past" after briefly trying the Kentucky Derby trail. The son of Tapit also worked Friday. "He's doing really good right now. That's him, the gray horse sticking his head out. We sent him home for a couple months and he seems like he's doing a lot better. I don't know (where he'll run). We've breezed him on the grass and he worked well. He could show up on the grass."
Noble Bird. His good race/bad race streak stands at four after a second in the Ben Ali, an eighth in the Alysheba, a win in the Pimlico Special and a sixth in the Met Mile. If that pattern holds, the $790,000 earner might be sitting on a big effort. "He probably worked as good as I've ever seen him work this morning (a half-mile in :47.66 on the main track) so if I get the OK from Mr. (John) Oxley we'll take a look at the Whitney."
Mighty Souper: Yet to run in 2016, the 4-year-old daughter of War Front broke her maiden last May and placed in two stakes before the year was out. "If she can stay healthy, I think she's going to be one of the better turf fillies later on. We gave her some time off over the winter and she'll be ready to run the second week or so here."
La Coronel, Conquest Bad Girl: Casse put them together because they're coming to Saratoga - along with several other 2-year-olds - after making their debuts. "We have five or six or seven horses that have run well their first starts different places and we're bringing them here. We're always trying to win, but our goal is not to win first time out. I like to see our horses get better and better. La Coronel (fifth Friday) is one and we breezed Conquest Bad Girl today. She got left and ran third first time at Calder. We have a bunch of those kinds of horses, 2-year-olds, that are coming in for their second and third starts and could do well."
Enstone: Co-owned by Casse's wife Tina, the 2-year-old daughter of Tiznow placed in two starts at Woodbine and is entered in Sunday's second race. "I entered her in Toronto and she didn't get in so she's on her way. She's running here. You're going to see some of that with our horses."
Catch A Glimpse: Unbeaten in five starts this year, the 3-year-old filly's only career loss in nine starts came in her debut here last summer. Off a win in the Belmont Oaks July 4, she aims for the Lake Placid Aug. 21. "One thing about Tepin that I'm really proud of is she didn't start out as a great horse, she's become one. Catch A Glimpse started out pretty good and she's gotten better and better. I'm pretty proud of that. It's nice to see.
Conquest Enforcer: Like Catch A Glimpse, he lost his first start but has done nothing but win in three since - all in Canada. The Ontario-bred 4-year-old may stay north of the border, but vans go to Saratoga all the time. "We have a horse a lot of people haven't heard about yet that I think is a superstar. People in Canada have heard of him. He's 3-for-4. I'm hoping - we're still a long ways away but - he could be the male version of Tepin though he's more a seven-eighths or a mile horse."
With a stable this deep, winners could come from anywhere so Casse thought hard on the last question of the interview . . . and delivered a final answer, "Who is a horse that nobody's ever heard of? A 2-year-old? . . . Black Canary."
Who knows? She might be a future millionaire.