Trainer Mark Casse won the past two Triple Crown races, and he helped his cause toward a hat trick in a familiar setting.
After taking the Lecomte Stakes a year ago with eventual Preakness Stakes winner War of Will, Casse made it two in a row in the 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds as John Oxley’s Enforceable rallied six wide on the final turn and surged to a 1 1/2-length victory in the $200,000, Grade 3 Lecomte Jan. 18 at Fair Grounds.
As part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, the Lecomte provided Enforceable with 10 points in the chase for starting spots in the opening leg of the Triple Crown and gave him 13 overall. The full-brother to multiple graded stakes winner Mohaymen (Tapit — Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union) picked up points from a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes Nov. 30 in his previous start and a third in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity before that.
“It’s nice to win the Lecomte again, but I was concerned,” Casse said. “How many times do you see a horse make a big, wide move and flatten out? But he’s changed. He was a big, gangly teenage boy and now he’s a man, and he’s a man with a big pedigree.”
Enforceable showed some late speed while rallying wide in both the Kentucky Jockey Club and Breeders’ Futurity but was unable to get any closer than within two lengths of the winner in those 1 1/16-mile races. Yet Saturday, while making a similar move, Enforceable showed the step forward he has taken from 2 to 3 while surging to the font and fending off a late bid from 3.20-1 co-favorite Silver State.
“He’s a tough horse to train,” Casse said. “I told Mr. Oxley when [Enforceable] was a 2-year-old that he might be a good horse, and it’s sure taken a long time for him to prove it. He’s a beautiful horse with a big pedigree, and he’s just had to learn. It’s similar to Sir Winston [the Casse-trained winner of the 2019 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets], who took a while. We do things differently than most people. I like running them and letting them learn. He had a lot of trouble in his last race and could have easily won. [Assistant trainer] David Carroll has had him at Fair Grounds with our division there, and he’s been telling me every day that this horse is getting better and better. And David is not one to throw accolades around lightly. He’s a great horseman, and when he says things, I believe him. Going in, I felt if Enforceable shows up, they will have to beat him.”
ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Enforceable surely has pedigree on his side as his dam’s catalog page is overflowing with black type. Aside from Mohaymen, a winner of four Grade 2 stakes, another full-brother, Kingly, is a Grade 3 winner on turf. Of Justwhistledixie’s five offspring to run, four are graded stakes winners, including 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner New Year’s Day, the sire of 2019 Horse of the Year finalist Maximum Security.
Casse’s brother, Justin, played a big role in acquiring the Kentucky-bred colt from his breeders, Clearsky Farms. Mark Casse said he expected the colt to sell for more than $1 million at the 2018 Keeneland September yearling sale and did not monitor the bidding. When Enforceable failed to meet his reserve at $775,000, Justin Casse approached Clearsky and paved the way for Oxley to purchase the colt privately.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed about this one,” Mark Casse said. “We’re excited.”
A large field of 13 turned out for the first of two Fair Grounds preps leading up to March 21 and the $1 million, Grade 2 TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby, and Bango and Shashashakemeup used their speed from outside posts to battle for the early lead on the backstretch as jockey Julien Leparoux bided his time in 11th with Enforceable.
Shashashakemeup still led at the top stretch, with Mr. Monomoy moving through inside of him. But moving swiftly from the outside, Enforceable darted past them before the eighth pole and then maintained a clear lead to the finish line over the late-charging Silver State from trainer Steve Asmussen’s barn.
Enforceable ($15.60) finished in 1:43.72 and will most likely resurface in the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford-Lincoln Feb. 15 at Fair Grounds, another race War of Will won last year.
“We’ll stay in New Orleans. We like it there,” Casse said.