July 18, 2024

Casse father and son sweep Churchill turf stakes with March to the Arch, Hard Legacy

March to the Arch captures the Wise Dan (c) Coady Photography/ Churchill Downs

After the Mark Casse-trained March to the Arch scored a graded breakthrough in Saturday night’s $250,000 Wise Dan (G2) at Churchill Downs, son Norm did likewise when his pupil Hard Legacy prevailed in the $150,000 Regret (G3) over the same turf course.

Live Oak Plantation’s homebred March to the Arch, a troubled fifth to Bricks and Mortar in the Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) on Derby Day, was complimenting the nation’s top turf male here.

The only entrant taking the class drop from the Old Forester, the Mark Casse trainee was sent off as a 10-1 overlay. Trip handicappers had been more focused upon Admission Office’s checkered passage when second in the May 18 Dixie (G2) and accordingly bet him down to 2-1 favoritism. But Admission Office once again found himself too far back after being inconvenienced at the start, and his belated rally fell a half-length short in third.

March to the Arch, on the other hand, enjoyed a good trip engineered by Tyler Gaffalione. After breaking from post 9, the Arch gelding maneuvered across to the hedge and saved ground in midpack much of the way.

Up front, Siem Riep carved out fractions of :23.34, :46.88, and 1:10.70 on the firm Matt Winn turf. Holiday Stone chased early, tracked by First Premio, like March to the Arch trained by Casse. All Right was in striking range on the inside, and Parlor steadily advanced through the field as the race unfolded.

When Siem Riep and Holiday Stone weakened in the stretch, the proverbial cavalry charge ensued. First Premio struck first, but All Right shot through a gap on the inside and threatened to pull a 71-1 shocker. Parlor, 33-1 after drawing in from the also-eligible list, then joined the fray wider out.

March to the Arch, who followed Parlor’s move to steer out into the clear, launched his rally at the perfect time. Collaring All Right and Parlor, he got the jump on Admission Office and came out on top in the blanket finish.

“It was just a super ride by Tyler,” assistant trainer David Carroll noted. “He saved ground all the way around, swung him out and he kicked hard. What a race. It was only his third start of the year. He ran at Tampa and got beat only five lengths to Bricks and Mortar. Hopefully he’ll have a big year going forward. Not only is Tyler a tremendous rider, he’s a tremendous person. He’s very mature and it shows every time he rides for us.”

“The race set up beautifully,” Gaffalione recapped. “The speed went ahead and I was able to tuck in going into the first turn. So, we were saving ground all around and I kind of just followed Corey (Lanerie on Parlor) when he started making his move. When I got him outside, he really exploded. He just kicked it into gear.”

A neck up on longshot All Right, March to the Arch negotiated 1 1/16 miles in a sharp 1:40.68 and returned $23. All Right, who paid $61.60 to place, was in turn a neck to the good of Admission Office. Parlor crossed the wire another head away in fourth. Next came First Premio; Chilean champion El Picaro, who ran evenly in his U.S. debut; Hot Springs; Bourbon Resolution; Cullum Road, who had lagged behind in last after a troubled start; Get Western; Siem Riep; Holiday Stone; and comebacker Itsinthepost. Inspector Lynley and Noble Commander were scratched.

Florida-bred March to the Arch’s resume reads 13-5-2-1, $429,514, reflecting victories in last year’s Toronto Cup and in his four-year-old bow in the March 31 Florida Cup Turf Classic. The bay made his stakes debut in the 2018 Florida Cup Sophomore Turf, where he missed by a nose, and he later finished third in the Saranac (G3) and fourth in the Hill Prince (G2).

Out of the Grade 2-winning Black Sam Bellamy mare Daveron, March to the Arch is a half-brother to Global Access, who captured this season’s Sophomore Turf and recently added the Marine (G3). They hail from the immediate family of champion Animal Kingdom, star of the 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1) and 2013 Dubai World Cup (G1).

Hard Legacy posted a front-running win in the Regret (c) Coady Photography/Churchill Downs

Norm Casse, formerly an assistant to father Mark before branching out on his own last year, went into the Regret with two chances to earn his personal stakes breakthrough. Marylou Whitney Stables’ homebred Hard Legacy did the honors at 5-1, while stablemate Belle Laura outperformed her 24-1 odds in fourth to bookend the superfecta.

With Julien Leparoux aboard, Hard Legacy seized the lead from 3-1 second choice Winter Sunset after an opening quarter in :23.62. The Hard Spun filly spurted clear through splits of :48.06 and 1:12.94, but Winter Sunset re-engaged on the far turn and continued to challenge down the lane. Hard Legacy responded, fended her off, and edged 1 1/4 lengths clear in 1:48.22 for 1 1/8 miles.

The younger Casse commented on how much this victory meant.

“Churchill Downs is my home, Louisville is my home, to win my first stakes win here is so special,” Norm said. “I thought today would be the day. Hard Legacy had been training very well, we had Julien up, it was time to get the first stakes win – hopefully the first of many.”

Leparoux credited the filly for getting herself into the game early.

“She can break a little slow sometimes. Today she broke really well,” the winning rider said. “I left her along and got her in a good rhythm. I got her to relax on the backside and she had enough late to hold them off.”

Varenka, the 9-5 favorite, wasn’t helped by the moderate pace. She also ran into traffic trouble in upper stretch before altering course and closing smartly for third. The stalking Belle Laura held fourth, and Delta’s Kingdom, Crafty’s Dream, Gamblin Train, Princesa Carolina, Choate Bridge, Hungry Kitten, and Fortunate Girl (from the Mark Casse barn) complete the order of finish.

Hard Legacy’s first stakes coup improved her record to 5-3-0-0 with earnings of $164,500. A seven-length debut winner at Keeneland last October, the bay followed up with a Gulfstream Park allowance score. Hard Legacy then stepped up into graded company, tiring to fifth in the Sweetest Chant (G3) and most recently taking fourth in the Appalachian (G2) back at Keeneland.

The Kentucky-bred was produced by Stone Legacy, best of the rest behind Rachel Alexandra in the 2009 Kentucky Oaks (G1). The Birdstone mare descends from the Whitney-cultivated family of Grade 1 heroine Catinca, tracing to champion Silver Spoon.