Casse Attempts Sweep of Iroquois, Pocahontas Stakes

Casse Attempts Sweep of Iroquois, Pocahontas Stakes

Thirstforlife (left) finishing third in the Kentucky Juvenile Stakes at Churchill Downs – Coady Photography

Churchill Downs Press Release: Trainer Mark Casse swept both 2-year-old stakes races on closing day of Churchill Downs’ Spring Meet with the John C. Oxley-owned pair of Classic Empire and Pretty City Dancer in the Bashford Manor (GIII) and Debutante Stakes, respectively, and will attempt to mirror that accomplishment Saturday when he sends out Thirstforlife in the $150,000 Iroquois Presented by TwinSpires.com (GIII) and Dream Dancing in the $200,000 Pocahontas Presented by TwinSpires.com (GII).

Both the Iroquois and Pocahontas serve as the first qualifying races on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” and “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” and will award the Top 4 finishers points on a 10-4-2-1 scale. They are also a part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” program where the winners of each race will receive an automatic berth to the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, both Grade I races that carry a purse of $2 million.

“Obviously it would be a great accomplishment,” said Casse’s assistant trainer David Carroll. “It would speak volumes of the horses under our care, the job Mark does and the team that he has put together and obviously the owners giving us horses of this caliber.”

Owned by Gary Barber and St. Elias Stable, Thirstforlife was a third beaten six lengths last time out behind Klimt in Del Mar’s Best Pal (GIII) who came back to win the Del Mar Futurity (GI). The son of Stay Thirsty will be trying two turns for the first time when he runs in the Iroquois.

“We’re looking forward to getting him around two turns,” Carroll said. “I don’t think we learned too much after his last race. He broke sharp, took back and they went a slow pace and ran one-two all the way around so we don’t really know where he fits but (Saturday) we should learn a lot about him. Obviously it’s a good field and a lot of horses on the up and up. I think (trainer) Dale (Romans)’s horse (Not This Time) looks like a promising colt also. We’ll learn a lot more after the race.”

While Thirstforlife is coming fresh out of a Grade III, his stable mate Dream Dancing will be taking things up a notch. Her last effort came when she broke her maiden on the second attempt going two turns on the turf at Saratoga. She will be trying dirt for the first time.

“Mark likes to use Saratoga for two turns,” Carroll said. “There are no two-turn dirt races, only turf races and often if they have a dirt pedigree, he’ll put them on the turf just for the experience and conditioning. She’s bred for dirt, her family says dirt and obviously she won on turf. She shipped down a few days ago, she’s in great shape and we’re looking forward to running her also.”

In her career debut on Aug. 7, the daughter of Tapit was second behind the Leah Gyarmati-trained Coasted who went on to win Saratoga’s P.G. Johnson Stakes. In the same race, Dream Dancing finished ahead of Joust who went on to break her maiden at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 11.

“They’ve done a great job with her at Saratoga,” Carroll said. “The form is good and we’re looking forward to leading her over there and hopefully run a big race. Mark will say that there are no two-turn dirt races and the turf is easier on them and also a lot of conditioning from them. Once you try that bottom, then you can try them on the dirt. It seems to work well.”

Casse will be in search of his first Pocahontas victory with Dream Dancing and has one Iroquois victory under his belt with Uncaptured in 2012. Jockey Florent Geroux has the mount aboard both Casse trainees.

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