Mark Casse arrived at Woodbine Racetrack on Sunday morning on top of the world.
Woodbine’s leading trainer had watched his four-year-old colt, Noble Bird, win the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on Saturday and was feeling pretty good about his entries in the two big races at Woodbine on Sunday afternoon — Conquest Boogaloo, Field of Courage, Conquest Curlinate and Danzig Moon in the $150,000 Plate Trial, as well as his four horses in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks — Season Ticket, Galina Point, Tancook and Shez a Masterpiece.
But what promised to be a day of celebration and triumph turned into a nightmare, a gut-wrenching day Casse will sadly never forget.
“I don’t even know how to say I feel,” Casse said following the Woodbine Oaks. “It’s just…”
Casse had to take a second to catch himself. The roller-coaster ride that is the sport of horse racing was never more front and centre than it was on a humid and misty Sunday afternoon at the Rexdale track.
In the second race, the Casse-trained filly Revello was eased up by jockey Gary Boulanger after breaking her ankle in the race, although the reports are that the three-year-old will be okay. Two races later, another Casse-trained filly, Mississippi Delta, won the $100,000 Alywow States with Alan Garcia on board. Heading into the Plate Trial, Casse was on a roll — a Grade 1 victory in Kentucky, a Stakes win at Woodbine and the 2-1 favourite, Danzig Moon, entered in the Plate Trial.
As the horses lined up to enter the starting gate for the Trial, Casse was all smiles. However, a few seconds into the race, Danzig Moon, owned by John C. Oxley, broke his right-hind leg going up the back stretch and stumbled before going down, resulting in the Emma-Jayne Wilson-ridden R U Watchingbud running into him and also stumbling. Both Wilson and Danzig Moon’s jockey, Julien Leparoux were thrown off, though in a wonderful display of horsemanship, Leparoux managed to grab Danzig Moon’s reins to stop him from getting up and damaging his leg further, though, in the end, it didn’t matter. Tragically, Danzig Moon — called “bad boy” by his connections for his comically nasty demeanour in the barn — never got up. The Malibu Moon-sired colt, who showed so much promise at the Kentucky Derby this year with a fifth-place finish, broke his right-hind leg and had to be euthanized right beside the track. His body will be taken to the Guelph University for an autopsy.
Casse’s filly Season Ticket finished third in the next race, the Woodbine Oaks, but the Sovereign Award-winning trainer couldn’t even watch. Following the Oaks, standing by himself trackside, Casse told the Toronto Sun that he sat inside the race office during the Oaks, attempting to collect his thoughts. The devastation of Danzig Moon’s death left him in a state of shock.
“He’s such a good horse,” said Casse, before catching himself. “He was a good horse.”
Casse had lost horses before, but the Indianapolis native said it never gets easier, adding that you never completely get over the loss.
“It makes it tough to watch the races because they’re part of your family,” he said. “It’s so sad. The Oxleys are devastated and that hurts me, too. They’re a mess.
“You always know something like this is possible,” Casse added. “But it’s a crazy injury, it’s a hind end injury that you don’t see that often.
“I’m just devastated,” he continued. “I don’t know if it’s really sunk in yet.”
Out of Leaveminthedust, Danzig Moon broke his maiden in his third start in February at Gulfstream and really turned heads when he finished second to Carpe Diem in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes at on April 4 at Keeneland. He then finished fifth at the Derby and sixth at the Preakness. After the Preakness, Casse decided not to enter his horse in the third leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes — won sensationally by American Pharoah to pull off the Triple Crown — and instead entered him in Sunday’s Plate trial at Woodbine with an eye on the Queen’s Plate on July 5 and the Canadian Triple Crown.
Casse will undoubtedly will have entries in the Queen’s Plate and will win more big stakes races this year, in Canada and the U.S. But no matter how well his stable does, the good-natured trainer will never completely get over the loss of Danzig Moon.
“Something like this always weighs on your mind,” he said. “Especially when they’re so unexpected. You just never know when something like this is going to happen.”
There you have it…..wee just do not know when such an accident will happen. LadyMum sayss shee doess not like thee synthetic turf an mee wunderss if thiss was a factor inn what happened. DANZIG MOON onlee ran on thee dirt. Maybee thee synthetic turf did not have thee give thee dirt wood have…maybee hee put a hoof wrong; maybe hee was so tired frum his other racess…..wee will nevurr know. So DANZIG MOON run free sweet horse an wee purromise to nevurr furget you…REST IN PEECE DANZIG MOON born March 24th, 2012 & died June 14th, 2015….wee will miss you so-o much……. =^,.^=