Profiles

2013 Sovereign Awards: Outstanding Broodmare, Breeder, Owner, Trainer

Captivating, Sam-Son Farms, John C. Oxley, Mark Casse

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OUTSTANDING BROODMARE

CAPTIVATING

(2002) by Arch – Andrea Ruckus (Bold Ruckus)

Breeder: Fred Seitz (ON).

Owner: William Graham.

Apart from being more valuable now that she’s won the Sovereign Award as the nation’s top broodmare, Captivating’s owner, Bill Graham, said he likes the fact they can never take the award away from her.

“It’s on her pedigree for life,” Graham said the day after the Sovereigns, which fell just three days after learning he was receiving an honour with even greater permanence and prestige — induction into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame as a builder.

Graham operates Windhaven Farms in Caledon, Ontario and Lexington, Kentucky. He purchased Captivating, a daughter of Arch out of Andrea Ruckus by Bold Ruckus as a yearling in 2003 with hopes she’d be as prolific on the track as she turned out to be in the breeding shed. While racing wasn’t Captivating’s forte (two career starts, earnings of $320), the  12-year-old Ontario-bred miss has been a stellar producer.

She’s the dam of the Lion Heart son Uncaptured, the 2012 Canadian Horse of the Year who earned over $1 million for owner John Oxley and trainer Mark Casse. Captivating’s first foal to race was Dancing Raven, a filly by Tomahawk who won two Woodbine stakes and earned nearly $400,000 for Graham.

Captivating has a 2011 filly by Majestic Warrior that sold for $275,000 at the Keeneland September Sale and a yearling filly named Uncle Mo being pointed to either that same sale or the Saratoga Yearling Sale. Captivating is currently in foal to Tapit.

“I think she’s very deserving of the (broodmare) award,” said Tim Beeston, farm manager of Windhaven’s Kentucky farm where Captivating resides. “Hopefully, she will continue with the success of producing nice racehorses, which I think she will. She does everything the right way. I’m looking forward to the Tapit. It will be exciting to have that one.”

Beeston said he wishes he could have predicted Captivating was going to turn out to be a top broodmare when he first saw her, but he did see she had potential.

“You could tell she was going to be a nice broodmare because she’s a very strong, solid mare. She just has all the parts to be a nice mare, though I don’t know if I could say that when I saw her I said, ‘Wow, she’s going to be a great broodmare,’” Beeston said.

As for Graham, Beeston said he’s thrilled his boss is going to be a Hall of Famer.

“He’s put a lot of effort into the industry both financially and through hard work and does a great job with it,” Beeston said. “It’s not an easy game, but he definitely stuck with it through thick and thin. That’s what it takes in this industry. There’s ups and downs every day.”

Though it’s fair to say the first week of April was definitely on the upside for Bill Graham.

OUTSTANDING BREEDER

SAM-SON FARM

VOTING TOTALS

Sam-Son Farm 119

William D. Graham 79

Adena Springs 43

by Dave Briggs

Rick Balaz said winning three Sovereign Awards to run Sam-Son Farm’s lifetime total to 73 is as gratifying as ever — in the case of the 2013 Outstanding Breeder award, maybe more so.

Though Sam-Son also walked away with Sovereigns for Horse of the Year and Champion Three-Year-Old Male for their stellar Up With the Birds, it was the top breeder award the farm’s president and general manager said he treasures just a little bit more.

“To be recognized as an outstanding breeder is, obviously, a great honour because it’s really the foundation of the whole industry, I think,” Balaz said. “I’m not going to say it’s easier to have a Horse of the Year. Obviously, the Horse of the Year is a great honour, but the continuity that it takes to be an outstanding breeder is something that we’re very proud of.”

It was the eighth breeder Sovereign for Sam-Son and the first one in nine years, ever since a five-year stranglehold on the award came to an end in 2004. Balaz said the award is recognition for changes the Milton, Ontario farm made about four years ago in mating decisions.

“We really got (broodmare and stallion manager) Dave Whitford involved in earnest doing the matings. The timing is, I think, very reflective of what Dave has done in bringing us back up to where we’d like to be,” Balaz said. “Like everybody else, we had some dry years there for a little while. It’s coming back. We’re really looking forward to this year. We’ve got a nice group of older horses coming back, obviously, but we’ve also got some really good talent with our young horses. So, hopefully, this will be another exciting one.”

In 2013, Sam-Son had earnings just shy of $4 million with 40 winners from 60 starters. Apart from Up With the Birds, who won the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park as well as the Breeders’ Stakes, the Marine and Black Gold Stakes, Sam-Son’s credits include graded stakes winners His Race to Win (Grade 3 Ontario Derby), Part the Seas (Grade 2 Bessarabian Stakes), plus Dance Again, Smartyfly and graded stakes-placed Irish Mission.

The Horse of the Year award was the ninth to Sam-Son’s credit. The farm — combined with its founder, Ernie Samuel — has earned 10 Outstanding Owner Sovereigns, 39 divisional titles, six for Outstanding Broodmare and one Sovereign Samuel earned as Man of the Year.

“Obviously, we’ve been at it for a long time and that certainly helps, but there’s a lot of other people that have been at it for a long time that haven’t had that kind of achievement,” Balaz said. “It’s really the people that we’ve been able to attract. That make things happen for us right from the breeding on, because that’s where it starts, right?”

OUTSTANDING OWNER

JOHN C. OXLEY

VOTING TOTALS

John C. Oxley 127

Sam-Son Farm 62

Bear Stables Ltd. 36

by Dave Briggs

Ranking owners on a scale from one to 10, trainer Mark Casse said John Oxley is an 11.

“He’s just a phenomenal man and I pinch myself every day to think that I train for him,” Casse said of Oxley who won the Sovereign Award for Outstanding Owner for the second straight year. “He’s just a classy man. He loves racing and he’s been very good to myself and to my family. A large, large, large part of our success is due to him.”

Oxley, 77, has been Woodbine’s leading owner in purses the past two years. The Oklahoma oilman had 127 Canadian starts in 2013 good for earnings exceeding $2.5 million. He won 27 times, was second 17 times and third in 23 races.

In 2013, Oxley won nine stakes races in Canada with nine different horses, illustrating the strength of his bench. A couple of fillies, the four-year-old Delightful Mary and the two-year-old Madly Truly, won graded races — the former scored in the Grade 3 Hendrie Stakes and the latter won the Grade 3 Mazarine Stakes. The other Canadian stakes winners were Canadian-breds Uncaptured, winner of the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie, as well as the 2012 Horse of the Year title; Dynamic Sky, who won the Plate Trial Stakes, as well as Spring in the Air, Matador, Northern Passion, Sky Commander and Sky High Lady.

In 2013, Oxley ranked ninth in North America in earnings out of nearly 30,000 owners with $3.54 million to his stable’s credit. In 2012, he was second in owner earnings on the continent with over $5.1 million banked.

Lifetime, Oxley has 43 graded stakes wins since 1996, 11 of those Grade 1 wins, including the 2001 Kentucky Derby with Monarchos, who was also third in the Belmont. Oxley-owned Beautiful Pleasure won the 1999 Breeders’ Cup distaff.

Casse said he first met Oxley “12, 14 years ago” when the owner bought a filly Casse was training.

“About four or five years ago, (Oxley) had some lesser horses that he needed to race and I was asked if I would be interested in training them. I said, ‘Sure.’ We didn’t do very well. They weren’t great horses, but in the meantime, we struck up a really great relationship,” Casse said. “I don’t just train for him, he’s my friend. I’m in a unique situation. Most of my big owners are not just my owners, but also my friends.”

On the days the horses don’t race well, Casse said it’s often Oxley and other owners such as Ernie Semersky of Conquest Stables, “that come and tell me, ‘Don’t worry about it’ and try to lift me up. That’s special and, believe me, it’s not the every day occurrence.”

OUTSTANDING TRAINER

MARK CASSE

VOTING TOTALS

Mark Casse 144

Reade Baker 54

Malcolm Pierce 25

by Dave Briggs

Two days after winning his sixth Sovereign Award for Outstanding Trainer (and third straight), Mark Casse was in a philosophical mood about the honour.

“I used to look at the Yankees and think after they won two or three World Series, ‘What would motivate them to want to win the next one?’ Honestly, winning six Sovereign Awards only makes me want to win seven,” Casse said. “Sometimes I feel like that if we didn’t win that award it would be a bad thing. There’s plenty of motivation still there.”

Even more so, in fact.

Casse, 53, was reached by phone on the morning after his Kentucky Derby dreams for 2014 went up in smoke when neither Coastline — in the Grade 1 Bluegrass — or Conquest Titan — in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby — ran well.

“We got a little roughed up yesterday,” Casse said.

Still, he was good about it. Maybe that’s because the weekend started well with a Sovereign Award for himself and one of his biggest clients, John Oxley, who won the Sovereign for Outstanding Owner for the second straight year.

In 2013, Casse was Woodbine’s leading trainer for the seventh straight year and eighth time in his career. He won 85 races during the Woodbine meet in 2013 and one big one at Fort Erie when 2012 Horse of the Year Uncaptured scored in the Prince of Wales Stakes.

Casse pupils My Conquestadory, Funny Proposition, Tepin, Delightful Mary, Laugh Track, Sisterly Love, Madly Truly and Delegation won nine graded events between them. Sisterly Love was named 2013 Champion Older Female in Canada and Delegation was a 2013 Sovereign finalist for Older Male.

Despite a deep love of racing at Woodbine — “I still say Woodbine has the best training facility anywhere in North America,” he said — it will likely be more difficult for Casse to win a fourth straight trainer Sovereign because the end of the Slots at Racetracks Program has him looking elsewhere to race with more frequency.

“For the first time this year, we’re going to go to Del Mar because I’m not going to be able to run a lot of the horses in Toronto that normally I would like to, or get to, simply because the races won’t fill,” Casse said. “A large part of it is because of what happened with the slots program.”

Casse ranked seventh among trainers in earnings in North America in 2013 with over $8.5 million. His horses won 128 races and were in the money 302 times in 679 starts.

In 2013, Casse surpassed two milestones — 10,000 career starts and $80 million in earnings. Lifetime, he has recorded 1,645 wins, finished second 1,511 times and been third 1,366 times from 10,489 starts. He has 49 graded stakes wins to his credit, though would dearly love to add the Kentucky Derby to that list.

“My oldest son, Norman, who is one of my main assistants… said something to me last night when I said, ‘Well, another year with no Derby horse.’ He said, ‘The great thing about this dad, is they ride them every year.’ We’ll start preparing for next year,” Casse said.

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