Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse said his best chance to win the Grade 2 $250,000 Nearctic Stakes Oct. 17 at Woodbine will come if there’s a hot pace that falls apart late in the six-furlong race on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course.
“All three of my horses are come-from-behind horses,” Casse said of Olympic Runner (post 3, Rafael Hernandez, 6-1), Turned Aside (post 6, Kazushi Kimura, 20-1) and Lucky Curlin (post 7, Irad Ortiz, Jr., 10-1).
Casse said “the old pro” Olympic Runner and “up-and-coming horse” Lucky Curlin, “need some pace and I think there’s going to be some pace. There’s some quick horses in there. If we get some pace and it falls apart, both of those horses will come running.”
The Nearctic has drawn 10 horses and will go as race 10 on Sunday, two races after the card’s main event, the Grade 1 $600,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes.
Brandon Greer trainee Town Cruise (post 9, Daisuke Fukumoto, 2-1) is the morning line favorite, followed by Admiralty Pier (post 1, Antonio Gallardo, 7-2), White Flag (post 4, Emma-Jayne Wilson, 5-1) and then Olympic Runner.
Casse said four-year-old Lucky Curlin has run well in his two starts this year – a victory on Aug. 22 at Woodbine in an allowance optional claiming race and a second to Pink Lloyd on September 25 in the Grade 3 $150,000 Bold Venture Stakes, also at Woodbine. Lucky Curlin has a record of 3-3-3 in 14 starts.
“Irad Ortiz is going to ride him for us,” Casse said. “He’s coming in to ride in the E.P. Taylor, so he’s going to ride him for us. (Lucky Curlin) belongs to Gary Barber… He won on the turf and then came back and was second in the stakes to Pink Lloyd. But he’s actually pretty good on the grass. There’s supposed to be some rain and I’m hoping there’s a little cut in the ground and it maybe brings some of his speed back. He’ll be running late.”
Casse said Olympic Runner “had kind of tough trip last time” in the Grade 1 $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile on September 18, finishing eighth in a race won by Town Cruise. Yet, it’s been a productive year for Olympic Runner, a 5-year-old son of Gio Ponti owned by Barber. Olympic Runner is 2-2-0 in eight starts in 2021. Olympic Runner won the Grade 2 $175,000 King Edward Stakes on Aug. 15 at Woodbine, was second in the Grade 2 $175,000 Connaught Cup Stakes on July 18 at Woodbine and was second in the Grade 3 $125,000 Canadian Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 27. Last year, he was fourth in the Nearctic won by Silent Poet.
As for Casse’s 20-1 longshot, Turned Aside, the trainer said the 5-year-old son of American Pharoah has been a disappointment.
“He was a really talented horse last year. We’ve got him this year and he’s been very disappointing. He’s training well. It’s a tough spot, but I’m going to give it a try,” Casse said.
This year, Turned Aside’s best finish is a fourth in the Turf Dash Stakes at Tampa Bay in February. Turned Aside was ninth in the Grade 2 $200,000 Shakertown Stakes at Keeneland on April 3 and eighth on Aug. 22 in the Grade 1 $350,000 Highlander Stakes at Woodbine, a race won by Silent Poet.
In his career, Turned Aside has a 4-2-1 record in 12 starts for D.J. Stable LLC and West Point Thoroughbreds. Turned Aside won the Grade 3 $100,000 Quick Call Stakes at Saratoga in 2020.