What Inspires Me: Casse Racing Fueled by Generations of Horsemen
Mark Casse has made more than a name for himself in the Thoroughbred racing industry, he has created an empire. Casse Racing has slowly gained momentum rising to the highest level of the sport -- not only in the United States, but abroad in Europe and Canada. Winning has taken on a whole different meaning for the seasoned professional running his business with family at his side. Driven by a love for horses and marked by generations of horsemen before his time, Casse continues to expand his legacy by taking young horses to the pinnacle of the sport and bringing seasoned runners to world class winner’s circles.
I was lucky to get the chance to chat with Mark Casse and his son, and assistant trainer, Norman Casse about what inspires them and how they stay focused, determined and motivated in an ever-changing industry.
Ilana Cramer: Can you tell me a little bit about what it is like working with your family on a day to day basis?
Mark Casse: Most of the time it is wonderful working with my family. When you can share the love that you have for a sport, and business, with people you love and care about it makes day to day life even better. I have been doing this for a long time, but it is much more rewarding having your whole family involved. Not only for my children, but we have employees who have been with me for thirty-seven years. It’s gotten to the point now that I am looking at their children and trying to ensure that this business will go on for a long time.
Norman Casse: Working with family it is very rewarding, because we are doing it together, but there can be more pressure and a little more tension. When you are working with someone you love it’s easier to get into arguments and to give your real heartfelt options on things. At the end of the day we are sharing the experience and sharing training all these great horses together; it’s much more rewarding that way.
IC: Everyone has that special horse that has inspired them to pursue a career in the industry or take on the title ‘dedicated fan’. Who are the horses that have inspire you throughout your career?
NC: Everyone has a horse that they remember that brings them into the game taking them from fan to fanatic, mine was Smarty Jones. Everything changed for me when Smarty Jones won the Kentucky Derby. I just became a fanatic at a whole other level overnight and from that day forward I decided I wanted to be a horse trainer on my own one day. It was not because I was forced into it with my family, it’s because I had that passion. I had been to every Kentucky Derby since 1996, I don’t know what it was about Smarty Jones, maybe it was his story or his undefeated record and I also love his trainer. The energy at Churchill that day – I don’t know how to describe it, but it transformed me, I know that. When he lost the Belmont I had already made my decision that I wanted to train.
MC: I can remember going to the horse racing Hall of Fame with my dad when I was eight and reading about Man o’ War. Secretariat was another horse that was very inspirational to me. I can still remember listening to Win Elliott, doing what then we would call a podcast, and I could recite almost the entire thing. I can still remember it: ‘Word around the backstretch is that Lucien Laurin has got a big red Bold Ruler colt that has been burning up the track in the morning.’ I still got it and that was from when I was twelve. These stories stick with you.
IC: Do you ever look at these big larger than life horses and adapt your training/technique to how some of the historical old time trainers trained?
MC: Things have changed so much, everything is different now. Taking nothing away from a horse like Man o’ War – he was a great horse – but he only had to deal with limited competition. I know I will get a lot of people mad at me for this, but I don’t know how you could compare a Man o’ War to an Arrogate. Arrogate has taken on the world, he is truly a world champion. When I started most of the tracks didn’t even have grass courses, now we have more grass racing than ever before.
IC: If you could train any horse in horse racing history who would it be? Smarty Jones?
NC: I feel blessed to have trained the horses that we have trained. I am really proud of what we have done with Tepin. I wouldn’t change that experience for anything in the world. I obviously want to train Derby winners, but for now I am really proud and content with that we have done with Tepin. If that’s the best horse we ever train then so be it, I am happy with her.
IC: How does family make big wins better and tough losses harder?
MC: We are all each other’s biggest fans. I think that when you are winning it’s great, but it’s not like winning with your family. Right now I am in a happy place. I would just like to continue with the success we have had recently. I truly love having my family involved in the horse business, but I would never force it on any of them. I would love to see Casse Racing just continue to grow and be successful, and most of all be respected. We all try very hard to do the right thing because our reputation is everything.
NC: You lose a lot more often than you win in this sport. It doesn’t sting that badly often, maybe a couple times a year, but you get over it quickly. It is extremely rewarding and makes you much more proud of what you are doing when you win a big race and your family is right there beside you. Anytime we accomplish these incredible feats - Breeders Cup and at Royal Ascot - I feel like we are not just doing this for ourselves, but we are doing this for our family before us. They never achieved this level of success, so I am very proud to honor that.
Mark Casse will be appearing on "Stories: Trainers Panel" on Tues, Aug. 15 and Norm Casse will be appearing on "Stories: Winning the Big Race" on Monday, Aug. 14 as well as the Tuesday Young Professionals in Racing Networking Hour