Rhyme Schemes Turns Attention to G1 Hopeful

August 13, 2023

Rhyme Schemes pours it on in the Saratoga Special (NYRA/Coglianese)

Maiden Winner Empire Island Could Try G1 Spinaway

Casse Leaning Towards Class Relief for Southlawn

NYRA Press Office

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— Pura Vida Investments’ talented juvenile Rhyme Schemes has won 2-of-3 lifetime starts with each score coming by a margin of 9 1/2 lengths, led by a romp in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Herb Moelis Memorial Saratoga Special, a 6 1/2-furlong main track sprint for juveniles, at Saratoga Race Course.

“Everything looks good this morning and he seems happy; no complaints,” said trainer Norm Casse, who celebrated his fifth career graded victory. “Overall, it’s so rewarding. I’ve been doing this for a long time and Saratoga is an iconic place – the Saratoga Special is an iconic race. Just to be involved is humbling, and to win it is something to be really proud of.”

Rhyme Schemes finished an even sixth on debut in May at Churchill Downs when attempting to close from mid-pack, but relished a frontrunning trip and the addition of blinkers to claim victory at second asking on June 15 at Ellis Park. He proved his versatility in the Saratoga Special when stalking and pouncing from third, one length off the pace, to draw clear down the stretch under regular rider Ricardo Santana, Jr.

“He’s a true professional,” said Casse. “We don’t have to do too much with him because he’s so talented; we just let him go through the motions between races, and that’s good enough for him. That’s what’s most exciting about him is the fact that we haven’t really had to grind on him to get him to this place where he is now.”

The son of Ghostzapper was awarded an 86 Beyer Speed Figure for the his Saratoga Special coup and will now be pointed to the Spa’s seven-furlong Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful on September 4, which will likely be used a springboard to Keeneland’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity going a two-turn 1 1/16-miles on October 7.

“Unless he suggests otherwise, I think that’s the most rational thing to do,” said Casse. “I know he’s still a fresh horse and I can’t imagine why he can’t come back in three weeks and run just as well. Ideally, the Hopeful will be next and then the Breeders’ Futurity after that. The way he trains and his overall demeanor suggests he’s a two-turn horse. The horses have the answers, so we’ll figure it out as we do it.”

In the juvenile filly division, Casse could see promising maiden winner Empire Island attempt Grade 1 company in the $300,000 Spinaway on September 3 after a gutsy debut graduation on August 6. A homebred for Marylou Whitney Stables, Empire Island pounced from 2 1/2 lengths off the pace to land a three-quarter-length score over Lady Moscato in a six-furlong maiden special weight.


“There’s a slight chance she could come back in the Spinaway, but she’s going to have to train herself into that spot,” said Casse. “I feel like she’s kind of the opposite of Rhyme Schemes in that we had to press on her a little bit more. It seems like the race took a little more out of her. That’s a pretty salty spot, and I need a fresh, ready horse for that.”

Casse added that Robert Masterson’s graded stakes-winner Southlawn remains possible for Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama presented by Keeneland Sales at the Spa, but is also considering the $200,000 Cathryn Sophia on August 22 at Parx Racing. The Pioneerof the Nile bay won the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks in March before finishing a respective 10th and fifth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks.

“There’s an outside chance she could run in the Alabama, but she’s got multiple options,” said Casse. “I’m leaning towards running her in something a little less demanding. I feel like she’s lost her mojo a little bit and it’s my job to get that back. Sometimes, the best way to do that is a little bit of class relief.”

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