Trainer Mark Casse looking forward to delayed Kentucky Derby race

It's been a difficult few months for Enforceable.

Back in March, Enforceable stood third overall in the Kentucky Derby points standings. Since then, the three-year-old colt has dropped to 12th.

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Veteran trainer Mark Casse, however, is still pointing the Kentucky-bred horse towards the Derby, which was rescheduled for Sept. 5 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We're running him in the Derby," Casse said in a telephone interview. "He's doing great, he's doing well.

"I thought his last race was good, it was his first race in a long time. He has grown up a lot."

The points system determines which horses qualify for the 20 spots in the Derby starting gate.

Enforceable has run four times this year. After registering a win (Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 18) and second (Grade 2 Risen Star on Feb. 15), he's been fifth (Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on March 21) and fourth (Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes on July 11) in his last two starts.

Overall, Enforceable has made 10 career starts (two wins, twice second, twice third) and earned US$397,150. But Casse, Canada's top trainer an unprecedented 11 times, saw some positives from Enforceable's last race, where was behind third-place finisher Rushdie by just a neck.

"After the Louisiana Derby, he was just kind of a tired horse," Casse said. "He had a few little issues so we brought him home and gave him some time.

"I think he'll come back and be stronger (for Kentucky Derby). Most of the time, Churchill is a little kinder to closers than Keeneland is."

Having said that, Casse admits topping a Derby field that's expected to include Tiz the Law (Belmont Stakes winner), Art Collector (Blue Grass champion) and Honor A.P. (Santa Anita Derby victor) won't be easy.

"It's a tough Derby, he (Enforceable) is going to need things to go his way," Casse said. "He needs there to be plenty of pace . . . that makes him much more effective."

A Kentucky Derby victory is one of the few accomplishments to elude Casse.

He's won all three legs of Canada's Triple Crown and is enshrined in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. Casse has also captured two-thirds of the American Triple Crown, five Breeders' Cup races and this year was named for induction into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame south of the border.

But winning the Derby has been a childhood dream for the 59-year-old Indianapolis native. Casse came close last year before becoming mired in the most controversial finish in race history.

War of Will was positioned to secure Casse his first Derby title when jockey Tyler Gaffalione had the son of War Front just behind leader Maximum Security coming off the final turn. But Maximum Security veered out several paths and clipped heels with War of Will, who was forced to change course and thus impede rivals Long Range Toddy, Bodexpress and Country House.

Maximum Security finished 1 1/2 lengths ahead of 65-1 longshot Country House but jockeys Flavien Prat (Country House) and Jon Court (Long Range Toddy) both claimed foul afterwards over Maximum Security and jockey Luis Saez. Stewards ultimately disqualified Maximum Security and awarded Country House the historic win.

War of Will never recovered from the incident, being elevated to seventh with the disqualification. War of Will was Casse's seventh Derby starter, his best finish being fourth by Classic Empire, the '17 early favourite.

Fatigue certainly shouldn't be a factor for Enforceable at this year's Derby. Casse isn't overly concerned about the layoff between races for his horse.

"Each horse is different," Casse said. "We were almost four months when he ran in the Bluegrass and now we're going to be two months (between Derby and last start)."

In May, Tiz the Law captured the Belmont with no fans in the stands due to the global pandemic. Spectators will be allowed to watch the Derby under very strict guidelines.

"We'll be able to go to the Derby," Casse said. "In fact, that will probably be our first trip this year."

Not surprisingly, Casse remains bullish on Enforceable because of the horse's pedigree.

His father, Tapit, has sired 25 Grade 1 champions — certainly comes from winning stock. Tapit’s grandsire was '92 Belmont Stakes winner A.P. Indy, who was the son of '77 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew and grandson of the legendary Secretariat.

Out of the Dixie Union mare Justwhistledixie, Enforceable is a full-brother to multiple graded stakes winner Mohaymen and half-brother to Grade 1-winner New Year's Day, the sire of Eclipse Award-winner Maximum Security.

"I think he’ll run well (in Kentucky Derby)," Casse said. "I think he'll be improved."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 3, 2020.

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