What the Canadian Hall of Fame trainer doesn't think is that the race for champion 3-year-old filly honors has gotten completely beyond his charge's reach. So in the aftermath of one of the prep races for the Midsummer Derby, he announced that Gary Barber's super girl is going to take on the opposite sex—and some racing history—come Aug. 25.
After saddling graded stakes winner Flameaway to a runner-up finish in the July 28 Jim Dandy Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G2) at Saratoga Race Course, Casse confirmed he will have a runner for the Travers Stakes (G1)—but not the one who was heading to the barn to cool out. Casse said he and Barber decided they will send multiple graded stakes winner Wonder Gadot against males in the 10-furlong Travers, giving the dark bay/brown filly a chance to become the first female runner since Lady Rotha in 1915 to capture the Spa's signature test.
Wonder Gadot already boasts a history of putting boys in their place. The runner-up in this year's Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) went on to capture the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown, winning the Queen's Plate Stakes June 30 at Woodbine and, most recently, cantering to a 5 3/4-length score in the July 24 Prince of Wales Stakes over sloppy (sealed) going at Fort Erie.
With Oaks heroine and four-time grade 1 winner Monomoy Girl slated to bypass the 1 1/4-mile Alabama Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Aug. 18 in favor of a possible start in the Sept. 22 Cotillion Stakes over 1 1/16 miles at Parx Racing, Casse and Barber figured there was more to be gained by taking a swing in the Travers than going in the Alabama, where they wouldn't even get to make a statement against the divisional leader.
"We're going to run in there," Casse said of the Travers. "I think she's just a true 1 1/4-mile horse, and we're not going to see Monomoy Girl in the Alabama, so let's go in the Travers."
According to statistics from New York Racing Association, no filly has contested the Travers since 1979, when Calumet Farm's Davona Dale came out of her second-place finish in the Alabama to finish fourth as the betting favorite.
With Triple Crown winner Justify retired, the only clear standout among the sophomore males on dirt appears to be reigning juvenile male champion Good Magic —who is set to run in the July 29 betfair.com Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park. Tenfold's bob-and-weave victory in the five-horse Jim Dandy field was further proof of that, but Casse said Wonder Gadot's Travers status didn't hinge on Saturday's race outcome.
"We actually made the decision about 3-4 hours (before the Jim Dandy), by Gary (Barber) mostly," Casse said. "We were going around and we both said, 'Hey, let's give it a try.' It gives us an extra week, and we've done this before. We tried (Canadian Horse of the Year) Lexie Lou against (two-time U.S. Horse of the Year) California Chrome (resulting in a runner-up finish in the grade 1 Hollywood Derby in 2014). So I think it's good. I think it's good for racing, actually."
Bred in Ontario by Anderson Farms, Wonder Gadot has been a model of consistency in her young career. She has raced at least once every month since making her debut at Woodbine in August 2017 and boasts graded wins in the Mazarine Stakes (G3) and Demoiselle Stakes (G2).
This year's Kentucky Oaks saw her fall just a half-length short of Monomoy Girl after those two battled in the stretch, and the only time she has been worse than third in 13 starts came when she finished sixth in the 14 Hands Winery Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) in November.
"We think she's special, and we're going to try and prove it," Casse said.