Canada-based trainer Mark Casse and owner John Oxley are a Breeders’ Cup World Championships dynamic duo in the division for 2-year-old runners. They have Northern Passion, a 12-1 morning line shot, in the Nov. 4 Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) and Prospective, a 30-1 shot, in the Nov. 5 Juvenile (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.
Northern Passion, who captured the Natalma Stakes (Can-IIIT) at Woodbine, was purchased by Casse for $220,000 at this year’s Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. March sale of 2-year-olds in training. Prospective, who won the Grey Stakes (Can-III) at Woodbine, was bought by Casse for $250,000 at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling auction.
“We’ve mapped out a plan and so far it’s working,” Casse said. “I’m hoping you’re just seeing the beginning of it; we’ll keep our fingers crossed. With some luck, you’re going to see Mr. Oxley do quite well.”
Casse helped build the late Harry T. Mangurian Jr.’s Florida-based Mockingbird Farm into a national powerhouse while overseeing the nursery’s operations. Mangurian led all breeders in North America in earnings and races won for several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s and also was a multiple winner of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association’s National Breeder of the Year honor. Mangurian received an Eclipse Award of Merit in 2001.
Oxley, who is in the oil and gas business, gained a high profile in the Thoroughbred racing game through 2001 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Monarchos and champion Beautiful Pleasure. Casse and Oxley are working together to build further on that success with recent auction purchases.
“I’ve been doing this for 35 years and I’ve never really had the pocketbook before,” Casse said. “I used to always have to buy cheap horses and hope for the best. Now, when I see a horse I like at the sales, I have a good shot to buy it, and the ones I buy have been running good. The goal is to have a really good racing stable and try to compete in the best races.”
Building a stable through auction purchases with Oxley, according to Casse, “is an entirely different world” from overseeing a large breeding operation with hundreds of horses for Mangurian.
“But I do see a lot of similarities between Mr. Oxley and Mr. Mangurian,” the trainer said. “I thought Mr. Mangurian was probably the smartest man I had ever been around. He saw my potential, I had an idea, and he gave me the funds to do it. We’re seeing the same sort of thing in his support of me with Mr. Oxley, who is a very hard-working man and a very smart man. You would have a tough time finding someone who loves racing more than he does. I wake up every morning and pinch myself. I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to train for a guy like him.”
Casse and Oxley got together for the first time in 2004.
“I had a filly I was training, Little Hussy, that (trainer) John Ward bought privately for Mr. Oxley,” Casse remembered. “He (Ward) left her with me to run in the Natalma Stakes. Mr. and Mrs. (Debby) Oxley came up to Canada and I met with them and ran her. She ran third.”
The association was brief because Ward took over the training of Little Hussy afterward.
“Then, maybe three years ago, Mr. Oxley contacted me,” Casse said. “He had a couple of decent little homebreds and asked if I would like train them. I said, ‘Of course.’ And that’s where it started.
“We had a little bit of success,” Casse continued, “and so I said to him, ‘You know Mr. Oxley, I’ve had some luck buying horses. Would you be interested in maybe buying a few?’ He said, ‘OK.’ I think the first year we bought four and three of them were stakes horses. One of them was Delightful Mary, who ran third in the (2010) Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies (and was a Canadian champion). We also bought a horse called Strike Oil, who won the (2010) Coronation Futurity. It’s just kind of been building since then.”
And in this year’s World Championships, Casse and Oxley have two chances to grow their venture’s success even more.