Mark Casse says the subject of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense came up more than once when discussing the next step for Grade II Tampa Bay Derby winner Prospective.
In 2007, Street Sense beat Any Given Saturday by a nose in the Tampa Bay Derby, setting a still-standing stakes record of 1:43.11 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth.
Trainer Carl Nafzger then sent Street Sense to Keeneland for the Blue Grass Stakes, in which he finished second by a nose to Dominican. The effort set him up perfectly for the Kentucky Derby three weeks later.
Casse, the trainer of Prospective, has entered his colt in Saturday’s mile-and-an-eighth Toyota Blue Grass, which will be run on Keeneland’s synthetic Polytrack surface. Prospective and jockey Luis Contreras have drawn the No. 3 post for the race, which has attracted 13 entries – including 6-5 morning-line favorite Hansen, who will break from the No. 4 post.
Prospective captured this year’s $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby on March 10 at Tampa Bay Downs, defeating Golden Ticket by three-quarters of a length in 1:43.35, the second-fastest time in the 32-year history of the race.
“We sure would be happy if he does the same thing as Street Sense,” said Casse, who is stabling Prospective at Churchill Downs, where he breezed five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 on April 2. “We just thought the Blue Grass would be a good spot as far as looking to the next step to get us to the Derby.”
Prospective, who is by the highly regarded sire Malibu Moon out of Spirited Away, by Awesome Again, is owned by John Oxley, who won the 2001 Kentucky Derby with Monarchos.
Prospective – who won the Grade III Grey Stakes on Woodbine’s synthetic surface as a 2-year-old – has made all three of his 2012 starts at Tampa Bay Downs. He won the $100,000 Pasco Stakes on Jan. 14, then finished second to Battle Hardened in the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 4 after an outside trip.
Casse believes the deep Tampa Bay Downs surface has helped build a strong foundation for Prospective as the Run for the Roses approaches. “From a fitness standpoint, he is at the top of his game,” Casse said.
“Knock on wood, he has gotten here in a safe manner. Your first concern is always your horse’s safety, and after three races at Tampa Bay Downs he has continued to train well. He is quite easy to train. He loves his business.”
Prospective will ship from Churchill Downs to Keeneland on Saturday morning, following the same routine as when he shipped from Palm Meadows Training Center to Tampa Bay Downs the morning of the Tampa Bay Derby.
“I think that tells (Prospective) that it’s race time,” Casse said. “If we go to the Kentucky Derby, I may just put him on a van and have them drive around for an hour, then bring him back to the barn. My son Joel is a policeman in Louisville, so maybe we can get a police escort around town.”
Like every trainer with a Kentucky Derby hopeful, Casse is aware the field is limited to 20 horses, and if more than 20 enter, graded stakes earnings are the determining factor in who gets in. Prospective currently ranks 16th with $365,452 in graded earnings, and although it would take a nightmare scenario to knock him out, nothing is official yet.
“We think we are safe with graded earnings – with a perfect-storm scenario, we could be 21st, but the Louisiana Derby winner (Hero of Order) would have to be supplemented (at a cost of $200,000),” Casse said.
Regardless, the Blue Grass is not the ultimate goal. “You don’t want an absolute real stressful, gut-wrenching start before the Derby. Our thought is we can get enough out of the Blue Grass and still have something left, which was another factor in our decision,” Casse said.
“He has already answered a lot of questions for me. He doesn’t have to win Saturday; I don’t even expect to win,” Casse said. “I would love for him to win, but I think the synthetic is his least-preferred surface. So I would like to see him run a nice race and come out of it healthy and ready to go.”
HOMEISTER MOVES TACK TO KEENELAND
Jockey Rosemary Homeister, Jr. has moved her tack to Keeneland for the next two weeks, according to her agent at Tampa Bay Downs, Steve Hayes. Homeister then will head to Arlington Park outside Chicago, which begins a 90-day meeting May 4.
In addition to competing at Keeneland, Homeister plans to spend time with trainer Eric Reed and his wife Kay, the godparents of her baby daughter, Victoria Rose.
Homeister departed Tampa Bay Downs in fourth place in the jockey standings with 52 victories and purse earnings for the meet of $831,025. Among her highlights were a pair of stakes victories, one on opening day and the other Saturday on the Florida Cup Day card.
On Dec. 3, Homeister guided then-4-year-old Jenny’s So Great to victory in the five-furlong, $75,000 Lightning City Stakes on the turf for owners Vicki and Bill Poston and trainer Jason Servis.
In Saturday’s $75,000 First Dude Distaff Turf Stakes, Homeister and the 6-year-old mare Hooh Why held off heavy favorite Unbridled Humor by a head at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the grass. Hooh Why is owned in partnership by the Estate of Gail Gee, Mark Hoffman and Earl Trostrud, Jr. and trained by Shirley Girten-Drake. Gee’s parents, E.B. Gee Jr. and Rosemary Gee, were in attendance.
For her career, Homeister has 2,491 victories, second all-time to Hall of Fame member Julie Krone among women jockeys. Homeister’s mounts have earned almost $44 million.
Homeister continues to compete at a world-class level while delighting fans with her enthusiasm and outgoing personality. Everyone at Tampa Bay Downs wishes her the best and looks forward to her return for the 2012-13 meeting.
DELACOUR IS TRAINER OF THE MONTH
Leigh Delacour has been selected as the Hurricane Grill & Wings Trainer of the Month.
Delacour, who operates her stable with her husband Arnaud, is four months pregnant. Her doctor advised her to stop riding immediately, but she continued to gallop horses until around two weeks ago, when Arnaud left Tampa Bay Downs with 10 of their runners for their base at Fair Hill Training Center near Elkton, Md.
“I’ve had friends who galloped while they were pregnant, and I still felt comfortable on a horse,” Delacour said of her act of mild disobedience. “But stopping now was one of those decisions that seemed the intelligent one to make.”
Withdrawal pains followed, but nothing major. “It is taking a little while to get used to,” Delacour said. “I don’t exert any energy standing and watching, so at the end of the morning I’m still going strong, whereas I was used to being a little tired.”
She also finds it easier to keep track of how her horses and exercise riders are performing. “It’s a role I’m already familiar with,” she said. “It’s just easier now because I see everything that happens, so I can make adjustments.”
Delacour – who trains for such top outfits as the Lael Stables of Roy and Gretchen Jackson, Dixiana Farms, Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone and Stella F. Thayer – entered this week tied for sixth in the track standings with 20 victories and owns a 26 percent win rate, fifth among trainers with 50 or more starts.
“We’ve had a good meet, and we are very happy with the way our horses are training,” Delacour said. “I am an advocate of both the Tampa Bay Downs turf and dirt surfaces, and our horses all seem to respond well to Tampa Bay Downs and the Florida weather. When they leave here, they are ready to perform.”
LIVE RACING RESUMES FRIDAY
The next live racing card at Tampa Bay Downs is Friday, with a first-race post time of 12:25 p.m. The track is open Thursday and every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at the Downs Golf Practice Facility.