Trainer Casse Returns Fresh and Energized

December 15, 2022

The Casse-trained Pretty Birdie flying away in the Purple Martin at Oaklawn March 26. (Coady Photography)

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.—Trainer Norm Casse’s first starter of the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting finished like most of his runners from the 2021-2022 meeting. Yacht Rock hit the board in last Sunday’s sixth race, finishing third in the maiden-claiming sprint for 2-year-olds.

Highlighted by Pretty Birdie’s victory in the $150,000 Purple Martin Stakes for 3-year-old female sprinters, Casse produced a sparkling 5-8-3 record from 21 starts in his Oaklawn debut last season. Casse has 20 stalls in his return to Oaklawn, which launched its 2022-2023 meeting Dec. 9.

“I hate to say stronger, but it’s different,” Casse said during training hours Monday morning at Oaklawn. “These are the 2-year-olds that we’re really excited about. Last year, we brought a bunch of claiming horses and we were aggressive and things like that. This is different. I don’t have a bunch of claimers here. I have, to me, our best group of horses here. I’m trying to support Oaklawn. They’ve been very good to me and I’m excited. We’ll see how it pans out.”

Casse said some of his most promising 2-year-olds are for a new client, prominent Arkansas owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong. Alex Lieblong is chairman of the Arkansas Racing Commission.

Trainer Norm Casse. (Coady Photography)

Casse’s first starter for the Lieblongs, Easy Action, finished second in his Sept. 17 career debut at Churchill Downs. The ultra-live maiden special weight sprint was won by Loggins, who returned to finish second, beaten a neck, by probable champion 2-year-old male Forte in the $600,000 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at 1 1/16 miles Oct. 8 at Keeneland. 

Easy Action finished fourth in his last start, a Nov. 19 maiden special weight sprint at Churchill Downs. A son of sprint champion Speightstown, Easy Action was purchased for $300,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

“Easy Action, he’s had some really bad luck,” Casse said. “Ran second to Loggins and then every time we entered him, he would get excluded or would be stuck on the also-eligible list. By the time we did get to run him back, hadn’t ran in two months and he had a bunch of easy works going into it. I feel like he was just short when he ran back.”

Casse also trains 2-year-old fillies Effortlesslyelgant (by Liam’s Map) and Goldenshuga (Goldencents) for the Lieblongs. The horses were purchased at auction for $475,000 and $400,000, respectively. Goldenshuga is unraced. Effortlesslyelgant finished fourth in her Nov. 23 career debut at Churchill Downs.

“She just had a terrible trip first time out and still almost won, regardless,” Casse said. “So, we’re excited about her.”

Casse bids for his second career Oaklawn stakes victory in Saturday’s $150,000 Poinsettia for female sprinters with Pretty Birdie. David Cabrera, Oaklawn’s co-leading jockey in 2021-2022, is named to ride. Cabrera was aboard for Pretty Birdie’s Purple Martin victory last March. 

“She’s breezed extremely well leading into this,” Casse said. “I’m extremely excited to run her. She clearly likes Oaklawn. David gets along with her really well. He rides her back and there’s a lot of things to be excited about.”

Casse, who saddled his first winner in 2018, also has 20 horses at Fair Grounds. Casse is the son of United States and Canadian Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse.

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