THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was Classic Empire, and we’ll be joined shortly by John Oxley and Julien Leparoux, but right now we’ve got winning trainer Mark Casse who is short on time because he has another nice horse coming up shortly on the card. Mark, congratulations, thanks for joining us here. You have not been shy about your confidence in Classic Empire in the last few weeks. Just tell us about that confidence that you’ve had and what you saw today in this race?
MARK CASSE: Well, you know what? Couple things amaze me about this horse was when he won the Bashford Manor at Churchill in June, I guess, I’ve been training for 37 years, I thought it was the most impressive 2-year-old winner that I’d ever trained. I went into the Hopeful after Pretty City Dancer won the Spinaway, and these two had trained together. I knew that he was superior to her. And I’m normally not a cocky guy, and this stopped me again for a couple years, but I said to a few people that day, we’re going to win the Hopeful today, it’s just a matter of how far.
Then of course he put me back into reality and put me — so I’m not going to say that again for a few more years. But what amazes me is this horse’s ability to have such a high cruising speed. They were flying along, and Julien said Syndergaard, Todd’s horse, is a fast horse, and he said Johnny was letting his horse run and he was just looking at him like, okay, when we going to go? So I don’t know. All week long Dale Romans has said we were going to run 1, 2, him and I, and I said, okay, I’m just glad I was 1.
THE MODERATOR: Mr. Oxley, congratulations to you. Can we just get your feelings in the aftermath of a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile win?
JOHN OXLEY: This is unbelievable. It’s what we’ve been hoping for for many years now, a horse that might replace Monarchos, whom we just lost. This horse is exceptional. I love him, but even more importantly, the jockey, Julien Leparoux, what a ride. Fantastic. Just perfect. It was flawless, and the team behind him, Mark Casse, Norman Casse, the entire organization works for each other. Also, to my sweet wife, Debbie, she brings luck to the team.
Q. This horse obviously had some issues breaking from the gate in several consecutive starts. Could you talk about what you did to correct that? Obviously it was a very, very top training job there.
MARK CASSE: You know, and maybe that’s another thing that makes this so special. He hasn’t necessarily been easy. He’s an extremely, extremely smart horse, and he tends to see things that maybe others don’t, and you never know what he’s going to kind of do. But we added blinkers. We had actually wanted — we thought after his first two performances where he ran really great, it would have been nice to put some blinkers on him. But normally they don’t allow you to put blinkers on horses that are winning. So after the Hopeful, Norman and I were watching him cool out, and we looked at each other and said I think we can put blinkers on him now.
Julien was still out, and he was just coming back off his wrist injury, and that evening I called him and I said, Julien, I have a horse I want you to work out of the gate tomorrow, do you think you can come? And he said, oh, sure. It was a joke.
Julien’s been a big, big part of this horse’s training as well.
THE MODERATOR: Julien, you’ve been aboard for all of Classic Empire’s wins, not the day that we’re talking about where there were the antics out of the gate, but just talk about this effort today and how professional he was relative to some of what we’ve seen on tape before?
JULIEN LEPAROUX: Well, I think you can see there is a big, big difference since the blinkers are on. He’s way more focused. The first two starts he was not breaking sharp from the gate. Since we put blinkers, I mean, he’s been pretty mean to race from the beginning. It’s a big change, and he’s a very, very nice horse. We go fast, but you don’t feel like you go fast on him, so looking forward for next year for sure.
Q. Tell us more about this trip today?
JULIEN LEPAROUX: Oh, we had a perfect trip. I wanted to break good, which we did. And after that, just sit there and tried to get going early. That’s it.
MARK CASSE: I kind of have to watch the break like this. But I just wanted to tell you, I’m voting for him as champion 2-year-old, if anybody’s wondering. Of course I don’t get a vote.
JOHN OXLEY: Hey, I’ll vote for that.
JULIEN LEPAROUX: Me too.
MARK CASSE: There we go.
THE MODERATOR: When we get to this point with an impressive juvenile winner, we have to ask about the spring and the potential for the Classics. Your thoughts on a path to get there and what you’re thinking now? It’s a little early, but we’re dying to know.
MARK CASSE: I’m just thinking I’m happy the day’s over with. It went well. That’s something that Mr. Oxley and I will talk about. We are a team. He has thoughts, I have thoughts. We’ll talk about it, and we’ll come up with a game plan. Obviously our goal is the first Saturday in May.
Q. This team we’ve seen many times before with wonderful colts. And I wonder if you’d take us through how you first found this colt?
MARK CASSE: Well, we bought him as a yearling. I think Mr. Oxley had said to me — he always likes to buy nice colts. Well, I think this year we were buying — no, we bought a few fillies. Then we go through and we give him kind of a list, and he goes around with us and he said, oh, I love this one. He wasn’t cheap. But he was well worth it.
Q. I can tell you’re confident and how much you love the horse. Watching that wonderful stretch duel and knowing that you and Dale were talking it’s going to be one of you, did you feel I’ve got this? Could you take us through what’s going through your head watching that? Thank you again, and congratulations.
MARK CASSE: Well, I thought at the top of the lane I was a little worried because he’d never really opened up before too much, so I’m like, well, maybe. I don’t know how much I want him to open up. Then I thought, well, he’s going to win by a couple lengths, and then towards about 16th pole I may have said a bad word because I could see that horse coming. You know, we had run second with Valadorna in the Filly race, and she just couldn’t get up. I’m like, oh, now it’s the opposite way. But I’m just proud of how both of them ran today. More importantly, he says he just comes along for the ride. But he fuels the ride. So he’s not — not only is he a great owner, but both him and Debbie are great friends of ours.
Q. Julien, on paper there was a lot of speed, early speed signed up in this race. Were you surprised, and were you trying to break that alertly and that quickly given the fact that it looked like there was so much speed? And he has shown the ability to race.
JULIEN LEPAROUX: No, not really. I didn’t expect to be where I was, to be honest. No, no, my goal was inside of me and outside of me was a lot of speed, so I had to break at least good and ask him away from them. I really thought they were actually going to clear me and maybe sit third or fourth, but in the first turn I was very, very happy how I was, that’s for sure, yeah.
Q. Were you surprised that there was only Syndergaard up front?
JULIEN LEPAROUX: Yes, but like Classic Empire, when he breaks, he’s got speed, too, so I knew he was going to put me in the race. I was a little surprised the other one didn’t ask a little bit more to get there. So, like I said, in the first turn I was very happy that I was by myself pretty good being second.
MARK CASSE: They were skipping along pretty good.
JULIEN LEPAROUX: Yeah.
Q. The horse on paper looked like he was going to —
JOHN OXLEY: Yeah, he broke so good today that I actually lost him for a second. I said, did he come out? And then I was like, oh, there he is. So I know I was surprised.
He broke so good that I felt like I was on board. But I tell you, when we got into that first turn and he was in a perfect spot, I jumped off (laughing).
Q. Your thoughts about the spring, having been through a spring like that with Monarchos, and the thoughts you’ll be having?
JOHN OXLEY: Winter’s coming up first, but I like snow, but I’m in Florida, so I never get it. But I love the spring, and had a good feeling once spring in the air. So I love spring and I love the journey up to the Triple Crown races. Each one will be a wonderful goal and a wonderful stop we hope. And we hope the good fortune lasts.
Q. Talk about the attributes of this colt looking ahead to next year what would make you excited about this horse at races like Churchill Downs?
MARK CASSE: He’s extremely smart. A lot of horses were getting warm — well, a lot of horses got warm late, but he just walks around and doesn’t really care. That’s always a nice thing to have in a Derby horse. He showed some speed today, but he’ll also rate.
JULIEN LEPAROUX: Yeah, I asked him away from there, but he’s pretty easy to rate, too, if you have to.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports