Norm Casse. Coady Photography
Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates
HOT SPRINGS, Ark.—Norm Casse saddled another winner Saturday at Oaklawn in Cactus, continuing the trainer’s torrid start at the 2022-2023 meeting that began Dec. 9.
Through Saturday, Day 23 of the scheduled 68-day meeting, Casse had compiled a sparkling 8-2-1 record from 16 starts and bankrolled $468,750 in purse earnings. Casse already has two stakes victories at the meeting – $150,000 Poinsettia Dec. 17 with Pretty Birdie and the $150,000 American Beauty for older female sprinters Jan. 21 with Hot and Sultry for prominent Arkansas owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong.
Casse, in his Oaklawn debut last season, was 5 for 21, highlighted by Pretty Birdie’s victory in the $150,000 Purple Martin Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters.
“It’s just one of those deals – first and foremost, my stable kind of focuses on dirt,” Casse said Sunday morning. “I like running in dirt races, so naturally this is a good fit for the horses that are here. A lot of the horses that have won here probably should have won their race prior at Churchill. So, we’re sitting, and we have horses that are sitting on wins. They were just unfortunate last time. And I just have to be honest. I feel like we have a great team here and really kind of figured Oaklawn out a little bit. It goes without saying that we’ve been supported by really great owners.”
Casse said Pretty Birdie, a homebred for the iconic Marylou Whitney Stables, remains on target for the $150,000 Carousel Stakes for older female sprinters Feb. 25 at Oaklawn. Casse said there’s “an outside chance” Hot and Sultry also runs in the Carousel.
“We’re still trying to toy with the idea of possibly stretching Hot and Sultry out,” Casse said. “That’s a decision that will be made at a later date.”
Casse said a potential two-turn landing spot for Hot and Sultry would be the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles March 11 at Oaklawn.
“It just depends on what’s in the condition book,” Casse said. “I would think that would have to be the race that she probably has to be in if we want to do that.”
The Azeri is the final major local prep for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at 1 1/16 miles April 15.
Casse has approximately 15 horses at Oaklawn.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen entered Sunday with 9,990 career North American victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.
Asmussen, already North America’s all-time winningest trainer, has collected a record 12 Oaklawn training titles. Asmussen had 9,992 career worldwide victories because Curlin won two races in the United Arab Emirates in 2008.
Asmussen entered Sunday with 830 career victories at Oaklawn (No. 2 all time) after promising 3-year-old Gun Pilot ($3.40) won Saturday’s seventh race, a $103,000 entry-level allowance at 1 mile.
The late Bob Holthus (867) is Oaklawn’s all-time winningest trainer.
Eight-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. won three races Saturday, increasing his career total in Hot Springs to 692. Santana won the fourth race aboard Homecoming Queen ($13) for trainer Rodolphe Brisset, fifth race aboard Cactus ($7.80) for trainer Norm Casse and the seventh race aboard favored Gun Pilot ($3.40) for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Santana is the seventh-winningest rider in Oaklawn history. The triple pushed Santana’s career North American total to 1,801, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. …
Four-time Oaklawn training champion David Vance won Saturday’s first race with Charter Oak($48.40). Vance’s son, trainer Tommy Vance of Hot Springs, won Saturday’s third race with Funny Uncle ($48). David Vance has at least one victory at every Oaklawn meeting since 1966, expect for two years (2011 and 2012), when he wintered in Florida and didn’t have a starter in Hot Springs.