TORONTO, October 2, 2019 - Trainer Mark Casse, who has won five of the past seven editions of the Mazarine Stakes, will have a trio of opportunities to add to his impressive total, Saturday at Woodbine.
The Mazarine, which offers Grade 3 status and a purse of $125,000, has attracted a field of six two-year-old fillies, including Casse charges Roman d’Oro, Skygaze and Special Honor.
Casse won three straight Mazarines from 2012-14. His most recent triumph came two years ago with 2018 Queen’s Plate champ and Canada’s 2018 Horse of the Year, Wonder Gadot. He was also victorious in 2004 and 2007 with Higher World and Officer Cherrie, respectively.
A bay daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, Roman d’Oro heads into Saturday’s feature off a 2 ½-length maiden win on September 15 at Woodbine.
Under Tyler Gaffalione, the Gary Barber silk bearer, who left the gate as the 5-2 favourite, led throughout the six-furlong main track race to notch the milestone victory.
The Kentucky-bred (Whisper Hill Farm) launched her career two weeks earlier, finishing fourth in a six-furlong race contested over Woodbine’s E.P. Taylor Turf Course.
“She’s a really well-bred filly,” said Casse. “My brother (Justin) bought her in France at the same sale where we bought (2019 Preakness Stakes champ) War of Will. The first time we ran her, we were expecting her to run a little better. It was on the grass, and she ran just okay. We ran her on the Tapeta next time out – Tyler was at Woodbine for the races, he rides a lot for Gary (Barber), so we let him ride her – and she was pretty impressive.
“When Tyler came back, he said, ‘When I asked this filly to go, she took off. I think she’s pretty nice.’ Now, we’re coming back a little bit on the quick side. Nobody knows with Skygaze or her, how they are going to handle two turns. But, both are bred to, so you hope so, but I never believe it until I see it.”
Skygaze debuted on July 20 at the Toronto oval. With Jerome Lermyte in the irons, the Kentucky-bred (Normandy Farm LLC), owned by Tracy Farmer, finished fourth over ‘good’ ground.
Next time out, on August 30, the bay daughter of American Pharoah romped to an impressive seven-length score over the Woodbine Tapeta.
“I thought her last race was tremendous,” praised Casse. “She had a big Beyer, but more importantly, she’s come back and trained extremely well. We think a lot of her. We liked her a lot (before the win), but our feeling is that she’s progressed even more since then. We’re excited about her.”
What stood out in particular in Skygaze’s maiden victory?
“I think it’s a couple of things,” offered Casse. “A lot of times, you never really know how good a race is until a little further down the road, when you look back it. I think she got a 79 Beyer, which is a big Beyer for a two-year-old filly. We have the favourite (Perfect Alibi) in the (Grade 1) Alcibiades on Friday at Keeneland, and I don’t think anyone in there has a 79 Beyer. That’s important.
“The other thing is the margin that she won by was impressive. More importantly, the fillies that finished second (Merveilleux) and third (Casse trainee Special Honor) in that race came back to win (Merveilleux) and finish second (Special Honor) in their next starts. It looks like she beat a couple of nice fillies.”
Special Honor, also owned by Tracy Farmer, is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Honor Code. The grey was third in her debut on August 30 at Woodbine, and was runner-up to Merveilleux last time out at a mile and 70 yards on September 28.
As for his Mazarine mastery, Casse points to his owners as a big reason for the success.
“We’re very fortunate to get a lot of good, young horses. We have great clients that give us the opportunity to train many good horses. And this is a race that is always on my radar. It’s an important race because it’s part of the development of our better horses. I find it a nice way to get them running two turns, which is always important.”
Last year, Tiz Breathtaking won the Mazarine for owner Windhaven Farms and trainer Michael Doyle.
The Mazarine is slated as race eight on Saturday's 10-race card. First post time is 1:05 p.m. Fans can watch and wager on all the action via HPIbet.com.
$125,000 MAZARINE STAKES
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Take Charge Eh – David Moran – Nick Gonzalez
2 – Skygaze – Jerome Lermyte – Mark Casse
3 – Curlin’s Voyage – Eurico Rosa da Silva – Josie Carroll
4 – Glorious Gizmo – Leo Salles – Denyse McClachrie
5 – Special Honor – Kazushi Kimura – Mark Casse
6 – Roman d’Oro – Rafael Hernandez – Mark Casse
Chris Lomon for Woodbine Communications