by Art Parker, author of the bi-annual guide “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns”
Few of Casse’s second time starters drop in class, in fact, more will undergo a distance change than a class drop.
Woodbine has been the foundation of Canadian racing for a long time. Each year the track holds a meet that lasts from approximately mid-April to mid-December, roughly eight months of the year.
Woodbine has favorable takeout rates and excellent racing surfaces. The polytrack has remained consistent for a long time and has always seemed to be fair. The turf surface seems to be one of the best in North America and is not overused. The stretch on the turf course is the longest in North America and, since so many turf races have horses bunch up, it allows for more competitors to have the time to have a fair run. The quality of racing may not equal to Saratoga or Keeneland, but it is well above average.
The Toronto oval offers a special Wednesday night card from May until the end of the meet. Woodbine also offers a 20 cent wager on all exotics other than exactas and doubles. The other thing about Woodbine is its commentary. The track has excellent commentators and analysts that I believe are the best anywhere. I’ve been playing the horses for decades and now almost all of my activity is via Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW), and I don’t hesitate to tell you that I rate Woodbine at the top when it comes to the overall, day to day, experience.
But where Woodbine is no different is when it comes to the winning trainers. Woodbine has many top notch trainers that do well with limited stock, but like most any other track, or circuit, there are a smaller number of trainers that garner a large percentage of the wins.
The top ten trainers at Woodbine in the last 5 plus years (April 2009 to present) based upon the number of wins at the track, which are noted in parenthesis, are: Mark Casse (503), Reade Baker (310), Bob Tiller (263), Sid Attard (234), Nick Gonzalez (196), Scott Fairlie (194), Roger Attfield (164), Josie Carroll (164), Malcolm Pierce (152), Brian Lynch (151). In the same time period, only three additional trainers have accumulated 100 or more wins.
Let’s take a look at the top trainer.
Mark Casse is the King of Canada when it comes to a trainer winning races. His 503 wins are basically at least double all others (except for Reade Baker). Casse needs no introduction to American players that pay attention to major stakes races since he has had several good horses invade the U.S. and perform well over the last few years. Even though Casse has been on top for quite some time he just reached what is perhaps the top milestone for a Canadian trainer when he won his first Queen’s Plate this year with the filly Lexie Lou, which was ridden by Patrick Husbands.
Speaking of Husbands, he has been the pilot for more than fifty percent of all Casse winners in the aforementioned time frame. Whenever I see a Casse entrant with Husbands riding I instantly write “Top Combo” by the name of the horse. From Casse’s 503 wins Husbands has ridden 261 of them. Other jocks you may see ride for Casse, but not all others, and the number of wins are Luis Contreras (64), Gary Boulanger (29), who has only been around Woodbine since April 2013 as far as these numbers are concerned, and Eurico Da Silva (21).
Casse wins most with horses coming off a layoff (at least 45 days away). Over 25% of his wins are first time layoff runners. Compared to other trainers, Casse does well with those that have extended layoffs – off for at least one year. You will rarely see a class jumper win for Casse after a layoff. With his first layoff horses Casse is notably dangerous with surface changes (15% of layoff wins), distance changes (21% of layoff wins) or class droppers (a whopping 64% of layoff wins). And, Casse’s runners shipping in from Keeneland and Gulfstream usually have their guns loaded.
Casse’s work regimen is mostly 6-8 days break in works with the last coming 6-8 days prior to race day. Casse seems to adhere to an equal time lapse before the race day if he works horses 9-12 days apart-those runners will probably have their last work 9-12 days prior to the actual race day.
One area where close attention is needed for Casse is inexperienced horses. Approximately 10% of his wins come from debut runners and about 12% of his wins come from second time starters. Over 3/5 of Casse’s debut winners are two year olds, and 1/3 of the two year old winners are for owner John Oxley. One can tell Casse develops plans for his horses considering that over 20% of his winners are either first or second time starters. Few of Casse’s second time starters drop in class, in fact, more will undergo a distance change than a class drop. When Casse changes distance for a second time starter it has always been from sprint to a route, and that appears to be a move by design.