Just call him Mr. October. Mark Casse pulled off his fifth graded win of the month when his trainee Field of Courage stormed home Oct. 15 to capture the $250,000 Nearctic Stakes (G2T) at Woodbine at odds of 40-1.
With three graded stakes wins at the current Keeneland meet, Casse showed his Canadian base is just as lethal when he earned his second graded stakes win of the month there.
Owned by Quintessential Racing Florida, the 5-year-old son of Marchfield earned his first stakes victory with a wide, tracking trip under jockey Luis Contreras.
As stablemate Conquest Tsunami dueled the Brad Cox-trained Dowse's Beach from the opening bell through fractions of :22.88 and :45.93, Contreras settled the gelding four wide before he took over at the top of the stretch.
After a few reminders from Contreras, who lost the whip in the stretch, he hit another gear and opened up on Cotai Glory, who tried to close on the inside but had to settle for second. White Flag, a 3-year-old trained by Christophe Clement who was sent off as the favorite, raced in last for much of the race before he made a late charge for third.
Field of Courage completed the six-furlong distance in 1:12.07 on soft turf. He paid $82.70, $28, and $10.70 across the board.
Field of Courage was exiting a runner-up finish to multiple graded winner Melmich in the Aug. 30 OLG/OR Elgin Stakes Presented by Bear Stables. That experience going 1 1/16 miles on the Tapeta 10 surface appeared to give Field of Courage plenty of bottom to confidently turn back the challenge of Cotai Glory, who had been facing top turf sprinters like Caravaggio, Lady Aurelia, and Marsha at shorter distances in Europe.
The victory also gave Marchfield his first black-type stakes winner. Field of Courage is out of the stakes-winning Bold n' Flashy mare Miss Crissy. Casse purchased him at the 2013 Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society Canadian-bred yearling sale for $66,374. The latest victory improved his record to 6-2-1 from 17 starts and raised his earnings to $429,693.
"He ran great," Casse said. "I trained his daddy and his daddy loved the grass.
"I thought he would be sitting back further. I was surprised that he had that much speed. Luis was very aggressive on him."
Field of Courage took a while to develop. He went eight months without a race before his first start of 2016 and more than 10 months before making his 2017 debut a winning one in a $40,000 turf claimer.
"He's a horse that has had a lot of issues, and we've given him some time and it's paying off," Casse said.
Just a day earlier, Casse won the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes presented by Lane's End (G1T) with La Coronel for owner John Oxley at Keeneland. Earlier this month, Wonder Gadot won the Mazarine Stakes (G3) for Casse and owner Gary Barber at Woodbine. Casse's other Keeneland graded victories came in the Dixiana Bourbon Stakes (G3) with Oxley's Flameaway and in the Darley Alcibiades (G1) with Debby Oxley's Heavenly Love.
On being called Mr. October, Casse said, "I'll take it."