by Teresa Genaro
Though she’s got only three starts on her resume, CATHERINETHEGREAT is so far doing a heck of a job living up to her name. On Friday, opening day of Saratoga’s 2018 summer meet, she earned her second straight open-lengths win in the $150,000 Schuylerville Stakes (G3).
Sent to the front by jockey Jose Ortiz after breaking from post 1, the gray filly sizzled through early fractions of :21.78 and :44.64, and while you might expect a two-year-old running those numbers to fade, Catherinethegreat was never seriously challenged and opened up as she headed to the wire, running the six furlongs in 1:09.98 over a fast track.
The margin of victory was 4 1/4 lengths. Favored Nonna Madeline finished second, three-quarters of a length in front of 14-1 longshot Congrats Gal. It was another 4 1/4 lengths back to Serengeti Empress.
Trainer Mark Casse admitted that those early fractions made him nervous.
“Afterwards,” he said, “I thought, ‘That’s a pretty good horse.'”
Selected by Casse, Catherinethegreat was purchased by John Oxley for $170,000 at the 2017 OBS October sale. Out of the Carson City mare Classy City Lady, she’s by Uncaptured, who was owned by Oxley during his racing career.
“I bought her out of a not-big sale,” the trainer explained. “I went around and looked at all the Uncaptureds. When I buy horses for Mr. Oxley, I normally say, ‘I really like this one.’ With Uncaptured, I said, ‘I really want this one.’
“When I saw this filly,” he went on, “I called him and said, ‘I found the next Uncaptured.'”
“I love the sire,” Oxley said, “and I could sense the enthusiasm in Mark’s voice, so I had, ‘You just buy her.'”
Catherinethegreat made her first two starts at Gulfstream Park on sloppy, sealed tracks, but given how well she had trained on fast dirt, neither the owner nor the trainer was concerned about her first start on a dry track, a surface she obviously handled with aplomb.
Casse had two other starters in the race, Eyeinthesky, who finished sixth, and Tapping Pearl, who ran ninth. His son Norman Casse finished seventh with Fightress, his first Saratoga starter as a trainer after having been his father’s assistant for many years.
“Here we are at Saratoga, and it could only be better if my Dad had been here,” Mark Casse said. “I’ve been watching the Schuylerville since I was a little boy, and to think that there were four Casse horses in it – it doesn’t get much better than that.”