Reason for Optimism With Well-Bred Enforceable on 2020 Derby Trail

After several encouraging starts, Enforceable broke through with his first stakes win in the Jan. 18 Lecomte Stakes on the Road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Making the Grade, which will run through the 2020 Belmont Stakes, focuses on the winners or top performers of the key races, usually from the previous weekend, who could make an impact the Triple Crown. We’ll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win classic races based upon ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey), and pedigree.

This week we take a closer look at Enforceable, winner of the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes Jan. 18 at Fair Grounds.

Enforceable was a bit of a slow developer, but the impeccably bred Tapit colt enjoyed a breakthrough win in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes Jan. 18 at Fair Grounds that stamped him a 2020 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve hopeful. A year ago, trainer Mark Casse swept the Lecomte and Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford with eventual Preakness Stakes winner War of Will. Casse plans to use the Fair Grounds path again this year for Enforceable.


Gray or Roan Colt

Sire (Father): Tapit

Dam (Mother): Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union

Owner: John Oxley

Breeder: Clearsky Farms (Ky.)

Trainer: Mark Casse

Ability: Mark Casse’s brother, Justin, purchased Enforceable privately on behalf of owner John Oxley after he failed to meet his reserve on a final bid of $775,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September yearling sale.

He made his career debut in May at Churchill Downs and ran second before coming back four weeks later and finished third at the Louisville track. Enforceable needed four starts to earn his first win, taking a 1 1/8-mile race at Saratoga in August after trying the turf in his third start.

Enforceable earned a then-career-best 87 Equibase Speed Figure for his first win and subsequently tested stakes competition in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, pairing his 87 figure in a third-place finish as he held his own while stepping up in class.

“He’s a beautiful horse with a big pedigree, and he’s just had to learn,” Casse said. “We do things differently than most people. I like running them and letting them learn.”

Enforceable made his sixth and final start as a 2-year-old in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. He closed from eighth to finish fourth, beaten by only two lengths on a sloppy track.

Casse said he trained well over the winter in preparation for his 3-year-old campaign, so his team expected a nice race from Enforceable in the Lecomte.

“[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,” Casse said. “David is not one to throw accolades around lightly. He’s a great horseman, and when he says things, I believe him.”

Enforceable was 11th of 13 early in the Lecomte but he was traveling very well under Julien Leparoux. When his jockey gave him the cue to accelerate approaching the far turn the response was immediate as he passed four horses on the turn and swept into the stretch about nine wide. Enforceable leveled off powerfully in the stretch and only needed about a sixteenth of a mile to take command, pulling away to a two-length lead in early stretch.

Enforceable held steady late to win by 1 ½ lengths with a final sixteenth of a mile in 6.28 seconds. He earned an 89 Beyer Speed Figure and a new eight-point career-top 97 Equibase Speed Figure for the win, with the Beyer consistent with the top runners on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The Equibase number came up a little light comparatively – Authentic earned a 113 for winning the Grade 3 Sham Stakes on Jan. 4. Enforceable earned a solid 94 BrisNet speed rating and a 106 TimeForm US rating for the Lecomte win.

It is promising that Enforceable did not need an especially fast pace to set up his closing kick – the opening half-mile was :47.41 with three-quarters of a mile in 1:12.20 – as he still passed 10 horses to prevail.

There is another step this improving colt will need to take to defeat the best of his generation because the competition toughens from here, but as I’ll explain in the next few sections there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

Running style: Most of the Derby trail hopefuls I’ve profiled for 2020 to date have boasted tactical speed and prefer to race on or near the lead. Enforceable, however, is at his best rallying from off the pace. He is not devoid of speed – he was fourth early in his first two starts in sprints – but when he’s taken back off the pace he is capable of mounting a sustained closing bid as he showed in the Lecomte when he started passing horses entering the final turn. Leparoux timed his rally perfectly and I’d expect Enforceable to use similar tactics moving forward.

Connections: Enforceable’s owner, John C. Oxley, won the 2001 Kentucky Derby with Monarchos and finished fourth in the 2017 Derby with Classic Empire, who went on to run second in the Preakness. An Oklahoma native, Oxley won Sovereign Awards as outstanding owner in Canada in 2012, 2013, and 2014. He has had seven Kentucky Derby starters.

Oxley founded Oxley Petroleum, an oil and gas exploration firm based in his hometown of Tulsa, in 1962, before selling the company in May 2003.

Trainer Mark Casse won the 2019 Preakness with War of Will, his first victory in a U.S. Triple Crown race, and three weeks later won the Belmont Stakes with Sir Winston. An 11-time Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s champion trainer, including every year since 2011, Casse’s best finish in the Kentucky Derby was a fourth with Classic Empire in 2017.

A 2016 inductee into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, Casse has won 2,835 races through Jan. 20, including 163 graded stakes, 32 Grade 1s, and five Breeders’ Cup races.

Julien Leparoux rode Enforceable for the first time in the Lecomte and the result was a career-best race. A two-time Eclipse Award winner (outstanding apprentice, 2006; outstanding jockey, 2009), Leparoux has never won a Triple Crown race but finished second in the Preakness with Macho Again (2008) and Classic Empire (2017) and was third twice in the Belmont Stakes. Since taking out his jockey’s license in 2005, Leparoux has won more than 2,700 races, including 249 graded stakes, 48 Grade 1s, and seven Breeders’ Cup races.

Pedigree: Enforceable is by three-time leading general sire Tapit, one of the two or three most important sires standing worldwide and responsible for three of the last six Belmont Stakes winners – Tonalist (2014), Creator (2016), and Tapwrit (2017).

Tapit also is the sire of 2014 Longines Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Untapable; champions Stardom Bound and Hansen, both Breeders’ Cup winners as 2-year-olds around two turns; two-time champion Unique Bella, a Grade 1 winner around two turns; and multiple Grade 1 winner Frosted, runner-up in the 2015 Belmont Stakes. Tapit has 138 stakes winners through Jan. 20, including 83 individual group or graded stakes winners. So … the top half of Enforceable’s pedigree is very strong.

The bottom half, likewise, offers reason to dream big. Enforceable’s dam (mother) is multiple Grade 2 winner Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union. A graded stakes winner at 1 1/8 miles, Justwhistledixie has produced four stakes winners to date: 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner New Year’s Day, four-time Grade 2 winner Mohaymen, and graded stakes winner Kingly. The latter two are by Tapit, making them full-siblings to Enforceable, Justwhistledixie’s fourth stakes winner.

Mohaymen was a graded stakes winner at 1 1/8 miles, while Kingly and New Year’s Day both won graded stakes at 1 1/16 miles. And New Year’s Day is the sire of three-time 2019 Grade 1 winner Maximum Security, who finished first in the Kentucky Derby but was disqualified.

Enforceable’s grandam (maternal grandmother), General Jeanne, was a winner at one mile and produced multiple graded stakes winners in the aforementioned Justwhistledixie and Grade 2 winner Chace City. General Jeanne is a half-sister to five stakes winners.

This family also is responsible for 2010 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Shared Account, 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Sharing, record-setting Grade 1 winner Got Stormy, and quite a few other graded stakes winners.

You would be hard-pressed to find a classier pedigree than Enforceable’s and it should be an asset as he stretches out to 1 ¼ miles.

Enforceable showed nice progress in his 3-year-old bow and Casse has shown in the last few years that he is an expert at getting horses prepared to fire their best on the big day. This colt also has a potent pedigree with a ton of class and sufficient stamina to be a major player on the Kentucky Derby trail.

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