Kentucky Derby Trainer Profiles: Mark Casse, Ian Wilkes, and Antonio Sano

Profile Picture: D.S. Williamson

D.S. Williamson

March 24th, 2017

The Kentucky Derby is less than 6 weeks away. Can you believe it? What I love about this year's Kentucky Derby is that new connections have taken steps onto the Derby Trail. Mark Casse, Ian Wilkes, and Antonio Sano have never won a Triple Crown race. All three have legitimate contenders for the Run for the Roses on May 6.

Let's check out these excellent trainers and their Derby horses.


Antonio Sano, Gunnevera

Sano saddled a single horse in 2006. The horse didn't win. In 2010, Sano saddled 203 horses. His record was 27 wins, 37 seconds, and 33 thirds from only 203 races. Sano's horses won an amazing $664,651 from only 203 horses. Ever since 2010, Sano's horses haven't less than $1.2 million.
Article Image
2016 was fantastic for Sano as he broke the $2 million barrier for the first time. Sano's horses earned over $2.6 million in 2016.

Known as a terrific grass trainer, Gunnevera is easily the best horse that Antonio Sano has ever had in his barn. Great thoroughbred write Steve Haskins has Gunnevera ranked first on his Derby Dozen. At first I didn't agree with Haskins, but after watching Gunnevera again win the Fountain of Youth, I think Steve might be on to something. Gunnevera accelerated twice in the race, once to get to Three Rules and Practical Joke, and then to get by them in the stretch. He also appears to have the requisite cruising speed to get into position to make those huge runs.

Ian Wilkes, McCraken

I wrote about McCraken in my blog about Ghostzapper. McCraken remains one of the favorites for the Run for the Roses. If he can win the Bluegrass in April, he might be the favorite when they get enter the starting gate on the First Saturday in May. As far as McCraken's trainer is concerned, forget it. Ian Wilkes has already had a long, terrific career. The best horse Wilkes has ever trained is easily Ft. Larned. The front-runner won the Whitney Invitational Stakes, the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2012. Ft. Larned won the Stephen Foster in 2013. Could Wilkes be on his way to his first ever Triple Crown win in the Kentucky Derby? Maybe. That's how good McCraken appears to be.

Mark E. Casse, Classic Empire

The 2016 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner has a lot of catching up to do. Classic Empire is scheduled to run in the Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland as well.
Article Image
If Empire does show up, his duel with McCraken should set the table for the Kentucky Derby. As far as Empire's trainer is concerned, forget it. Casse is one of the top trainers in the world. Casse has taken home 6 Sovereign Awards, which Canada hands out to their best trainer.

In 2015, Casse won the Breeders' Cup Mile with Tepin. That same year, he won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf with Catch a Glimpse. The last three years have been ridiculous for Casse. His horses won over $11.879 million in 2014. In 2015, his horses took home over $13.697 million. Last year, Casse's horses earned over $17.946 million. The man can train. If anyone can get Classic Empire ready for the Derby off two preps, it's Mark Casse.