MIAMI GARDENS, FL – Mark Casse became the 34th trainer in Thoroughbred racing history to win 3000 races Thursday when Live Oak Plantation’s Souper Watson scored a decisive 1 ¾-length victory in Race 3 at Gulfstream Park West.
The 59-year-old native of Indiana, who was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame earlier this year, watched the milestone win on TV from his Ocala, FL farm.
“It feels good. I watched it with my son, Colby, and we gave each other high-fives and celebrated,” Casse said. ‘I’m happy to be able to do it for [Live Oak Plantation’s] Mrs. [Charlotte] Weber.”
Nick Tomlinson, Casse’s South Florida-based assistant trainer, saddled Souper Watson ($17), who graduated under jockey Miguel Vasquez while coming off a 6 ½-month layoff in the 7 ½-furlong maiden special weight race on turf.
“[Training] is something I’ve just wanted to do my entire life. Milestones mean a lot. This has made me think back over the years,” Casse said. “I went through a period of seven or eight years where I didn’t train many horses. We kicked back in, I want to say, 20 years ago. When we won 1000, I said, ‘Well, that was nice.’ Then, when we won 2000, I said, ‘I don’t think there will be 3000.’ I don’t know if there will be 4000. We’ll see.”
Souper Watson entered Thursday’s race off a sixth-place finish at Gulfstream Park in an April 25 maiden special weight event that has turned out to be a mega key race. All eight of the 3-year-old son of Ghostzapper’s rivals have gone on to graduate, including four next-out winners. Victorious Venezuelan Hug won his next race at Gulfstream and went on to win an allowance race at Saratoga. Runner-up Shamrocket came back to graduate at Belmont Park in his next race and most recently finished third in the Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs. Third-place finisher Mystery Bank graduated at Saratoga in his next start. Freedom Force, Winter’s Wonder and Disturbin Bourbon – who finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively – all graduated two starts later. Seventh-place finisher Jealous Boyfriend won next time out at Gulfstream and last-place finisher Viper came back three races later to win back-to-back races.
Souper Watson was narrowly beaten in his turf debut at Gulfstream Feb. 13 in his third career start before a troubled fifth March 4 and sixth in the April 25 key race, in which all nine starters have all gone on to visit the winner’s circle in subsequent starts.
“I was just talking with my assistant, Nick Tomlinson. We weren’t shocked at all,” Casse said. “We honestly thought he was a pretty good horse early on. That last race came up a little tough. We sent him home and gave him a little break and he came back blockbusters.”
A native of Indiana, Casse took out his trainer’s license at the age of 17 in Massachusetts. He saddled his first career winner, Joe’s Coming, in 1979 at Keeneland and his first graded-stakes winner in 1984 when winning the Jamaica (G3) at Belmont Park with Raja’s Shark. A 12-time Sovereign Award winner, Casse is ranked sixth in North America this year in wins (172) and purse earnings ($10.7 million) this year. Just a few of Casse’s many highlights include saddling winners in the 2019 Preakness (War of Will) and 2019 Belmont (Sir Winston) and training two-time champion Tepin, winner of the Queen Anne Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot.
Casse has won training titles at Woodbine, Keeneland, Churchill and Turfway.
Photo Credit: NYRA