Casse juveniles, Dothraki Queen gearing up for Churchill runs

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Jen Caldwell

November 14th, 2015

Trainer Mark Casse earned his first Breeders’ Cup victories this year thanks to Catch a Glimpse in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) and Tepin defeating the boys in the Mile (G1), but the Sovereign Award-winning conditioner is far from done for the season.

In addition to Catch a Glimpse, Casse also saddled two-year-olds Airoforce and Conquest Big E in Breeders’ Cup events. However, the duo didn’t do as well as their stablemates but will get a chance to turn things around in upcoming races at Churchill Downs.

Airoforce finished a rallying, close second as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) to suffer his first loss after a pair of easy grass wins in Kentucky; Conquest Big E didn’t offer much when eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).

The two-year-olds got back to work on Saturday over the fast main track at Churchill, with Airoforce readying for a possible first start on dirt when breezing a :48.40 half-mile in company with Conquest Big E.

Casse has Airoforce targeting the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill on November 28 while Conquest Big E is headed to a first-level allowance going a mile on the same day.

“They both worked on the bridle and were full of energy the entire time,” said Norman Casse, assistant to his father, Mark.

“(Airoforce has) always worked real well on the dirt and we’ve always thought that he was one of our better two-year-olds this year. He started out on the grass just because of the Kentucky Downs purse structure. Sometimes it works like that, but a lot of horses are good on any surface you put them on,” Casse explained switching Airoforce to the main track.

The Colonel John colt broke his maiden at first asking by 3 1/4 lengths on the turf then captured Keeneland’s Bourbon S. (G3) by 2 1/2 lengths as his prep to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

“He’s shown that he’s obviously very talented on the grass but we feel that as long as he continues to do well that this would be the perfect time to try him on the dirt being that this is at his home track and just to give us a good idea on where to go with him from here on out,” Norman Casse continued.

“Once you win two races in a row on the turf, you aren’t typically going to switch up and change directions, but in this case, being that there really are no turf races for two-year-olds for the rest of the year, the Kentucky Jockey Club makes the most sense.”

In other news from Churchill on Saturday, Grade 2 vixen Dothraki Queen clocked a half-mile in :48.40 with jockey Corey Lanerie up for trainer Kenny McPeek. The Pure Prize filly, exiting a third-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), is targeting Churchill’s $200,000 Golden Rod (G2) on the same day as the Kentucky Jockey Club

Classic-placed Ride on Curlin geared up for his return to action with a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.80 for trainer Billy Gowan. The bay son of Curlin had Cory Orm in the saddle as he readies for a possible run in the $60,000 Thanksgiving H. at Fair Grounds on November 26.

“He looked good and felt good. I was pleased,” Orm said.

Campaigned by Dan Dougherty, Ride on Curlin finished second in the 2014 Preakness S. (G1) and was also runner-up in last year’s Arkansas Derby (G1). He captured his four-year-old opener at Oaklawn Park in mid-January, which was his first start since being eased in the 2014 Belmont S. (G1), but was well-beaten in his last two during the spring.

“We wanted to run him in the overnight stakes at Churchill ($80,000 Bet On Sunshine S.) next Saturday, but the timing didn’t work out quite right,” said Doughtery, who was at Churchill Saturday to watch Ride on Curlin work.

“It should certainly be a fun year next year. We’ve got some plans to run him in some big races. We’ve brought him back slow so we’ll probably run him once in the next 30 days and then head into next year. We’re going to ship down to Fair Grounds so we’ll hit that circuit and maybe Oaklawn for a race here and there. Just depending on what looks the best at the time.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Doughtery added. “It’s a lot more fun when he’s on the track racing than when he’s on a break. The breaks seem long but you have to do it sometime.”

Chocolate Ride, who scored in the Fair Grounds H. (G3) and Mervin H. Muniz Jr. H. (G2) earlier this season, could join Ride on Curlin back at that New Orleans venue after working a half-mile in :48.60 at Churchill on Saturday.

The Candy Ride gelding was last seen finishing off-the-board in the May 2 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) under the Twin Spires for trainer Brad Cox but is likely to return in December at Fair Grounds.

Airoforce photo courtesy of Keeneland/Coady Photography
Ride on Curlin photo courtesy of Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography