Mark Casse figured it would take some time for five-year-old Fev Rover (IRE) to hit her best stride, but he felt certain that day would come.
An accomplished runner in Europe at 2 and 3, Fev Rover, the daughter of Gutaifan (IRE)-Laurelita (IRE) who will contest the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1T) on November 4 at Santa Anita, unpacked a big personality when she arrived in North America.
Her first stop was owner Tracy Farmer’s Shadowlawn Farm in Midway, Kentucky.
“Tough, she was ornery as she could be,” recalled Casse of the horse purchased by Farmer for nearly $1 million (U.S.) at the Tattersalls December 2021 Mares Sale. “When we first got her from Europe, we could hardly get to her go to the track. She went to Tracy’s farm when she first came and on the first day there, when they turned her out, she cleared the fence, which no horse has ever done there before.”
The bay launched her career with 10 starts in Europe, highlighted by two stakes victories, including the Shadwell Prix du Calvados (G2T) on August 22, 2020. Another notable performance came the next May in the Qipco One Thousand Guineas (G1T) at Newmarket when she was third. Her final start across the Atlantic was a fourth in the 2021 running of the Bahrain International Trophy (G3T) in November.
Fev Rover’s North American debut came last July at Woodbine in the Dance Smartly Stakes (G2T) when she was second to Wakanaka (IRE).
She went one better in her following engagement, taking the Canadian Stakes (G2T), and concluded her 2022 campaign with a third in the E.P. Taylor Stakes (G1T).
Pleased with how Fev Rover raced over the world-renowned E.P. Taylor Turf at 4, Casse felt the mare would be even better the following campaign.
His intuition proved to be correct.
“She’s come a long way since her 4-year-old year,” said Casse. “She got better, and she got a little easier to train.”
This year, Fev Rover has been a force. In July, she won the one-mile Nassau Stakes (G2T) at Woodbine in her seasonal bow and then made her U.S. debut in the 1 1/8-mile Diana Stakes (G1T) in mid-July at Saratoga where she finished third.
On August 12, she went gate-to-wire for a 3 ½-length triumph in the 1 3/16-mile Beverly D. (G1T) at Colonial Downs. After a fourth in her September 9 return to Woodbine, in the Canadian Stakes (G2T), she came back with a superb 2 ¼-length win on October 8 in the 1 ¼-mile E.P. Taylor (G1T).
“When she won the Beverly D. and we brought her back to Saratoga, she started showing us a little bit of her old behavior,” said Casse. “When we sent her back to Toronto, she was back to her old self, not behaving well. I think that was one of the reasons why she didn’t run her best in the Canadian. She is a terrible kicker and if she were to kick you, she would kill you. She kicks with a Mike Tyson power. She did it at Saratoga, then in the Beverly D. I kept her out of the way of walls before the Beverly D. so she wouldn’t kick anybody, and she did pretty well.”
It was quite the opposite ahead of the Canadian.
“[Assistant trainer] David Adams and I talked about it, and I said, ‘I think you should saddle her outside so she can’t kick anything.’ Well, that was a mistake. She didn’t kick anything, but she got herself in a lather. I was watching post parade and she was in a sweat. That isn’t like her. I said to David, ‘Man, she’s hot.’ You saw it in her performance. So, we went back to saddling inside for the E.P. Taylor, in the rubber room, and she behaved. I called David as soon as she was walking out and asked if she was better. He said, ‘A thousand times better. They better be tied on because they are going to see the real Fev Rover.’ She was way more focused, and we saw what happened.
“I didn’t say it much at the time, but I brought her back to Woodbine because she likes to train there,” Casse continued. “I also brought her back so that she could be eligible (horses must race three times during the given year) to be considered for Canada’s Horse of the Year. She needed two more starts, so there was a method to our madness. That is important going forward as a broodmare prospect, being horse of the year. Unless somebody pulls off something special at the Breeders’ Cup, I would say she has a pretty good chance.”
For now, Fev Rover, bred by Manister House Stud, will take her show on the road to face other top-level turf talents in California.
Casse, who has six Breeders’ Cup victories on his resume, has every reason to believe his tenacious, well-travelled mare will be up for the challenge.
“She is doing very well. She just developed from 4 to 5 and she is one of the best-looking horses we have. She grew up and got stronger. She is a very talented, big, strong mare.”
Is there an athlete or athletes that Casse would liken Fev Rover to?
“I would say one of the Williams sisters, Venus or Serena,” he said of the tennis stars. “Both those athletes are tough as nails, so strong and powerful. And that’s Fev Rover.”
Sporting a mark of 6-4-3 from 19 starts, along with over $1.2 million (U.S.) in earnings, Fev Rover (PP8, 8-1) will be ridden by Javier Castellano in the Filly & Mare Turf.
*Casse also starts Ontario bred 2-year-old colt MY BOY PRINCE in the Juvenile Turf on Friday and the grey son of Cairo Prince could be the most dominant pace early in the race.
“After he finished second in the Summer (G1) (at Woodbine), we brought him back in the Cup and Saucer. I hemmed and hawed about not running, but I thought it was a nice spot and he was going to have to do a little something anyway. He won as easy as a horse can win (4
½ lengths). More importantly, the next day you could not keep him on the ground. He’s a pretty nice horse. He will be on the lead in this one.”
Another Casse colt, CAN GROUP, is also in the Juvenile Turf, for American based D.J. Stable.