Things About to Change at Barn 17, Awaiting Bernardini

Things were quiet at Barn 17 on the Churchill Downs backstretch the morning of Oct. 31. But Norman Casse knows that is about to change. And, he's glad.

Casse and Skip Code were all alone in the small barn but because his father, trainer Mark Casse, and Tom Albertrani, who trains Bernardini, are old friends, the younger Casse is expecting a much livelier atmosphere starting the afternoon of Nov. 1.

Bernardini will be housed two stalls down from Skip Code, who Mark Casse will saddle for the Bessemer Trust Juvenile (gr. I). In between will be Albertrani's pony and the end stall will be occupied by Balletto, who Albertrani will send out in the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I). Both Bernardini and Balletto race for Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stable.

While he and his father will be busy training Skip Code, owned by Charles Laloggia, the younger Casse knows all eyes will be on Bernardini, the favorite for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge.

"I've been here for 10 days and it has been very peaceful and quiet," the 23-year-old assistant to his father said. "But I've got a little feeling that is about to change. There will be lots of people coming to the barn and they won't be here to see our 30-1 shot," he kidded.

For Casse, it will be memorable being in the same barn with Bernardini. "It's a special moment because he is such a good horse and because I have known Tommy my whole life."

In fact, Albertrani used to ride for Casse before giving up being a jockey to turn to training. The family has remained very close.

Norman Casse is named for his grandfather, Norm Casse, who is an owner/breeder/pinhooker, former trainer, and until recently, chairman of the Ocala Breeders' Sale Co.

The third generation horsemen did not decide he wanted to work with horses until his sophomore year at Bellarmine University in Louisville. Still, it was not until he graduated with a business administration degree and went to work for his father in in Ocala, Fla., that he knew office life wasn't for him.

"I called my Dad and we discussed it and he was thinking the same thing, that I should be on the racetrack," Casse said. "Less than 24 hours later, I was driving to Toronto (where his father stables at Woodbine)."

That was just three months ago, and now the youngster is preparing a Breeders' Cup horse and awaiting the arrival of Bernardini.

"I can't wait until he gets here," he said. "Bernardini is the best horse I've ever seen."

We won't know for sure until late Nov. 4 but he may be the best horse many people have ever seen.

If that is the case, Casse will have a big crowd that night and the following morning at Barn 17.