TORONTO, September 7 - On the surface of it, there wasn't a whole lot to be gleaned from the initial outing the chestnut filly in the Casse Racing shedrow put forth on July 30, 2015.
What was supposed to be a maiden special weight test on the Saratoga Race Course turf had been shifted to the main track. And after a mild three-wide bid on the turn, the daughter of City Zip gave way in the lane to finish midpack in the 10-horse field - hardly an embarrassing first-out effort but nothing that signaled a star in the making.
A lesser horseman would have viewed Catch a Glimpse's first start as just another middling outing from a baby who wasn't quite there yet in terms of development. What Canadian Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse saw was an opportunity to test his long-held theory that, when it comes to the art of coaxing the best out of precocious youngsters, there aren't many venues that can compare to what Woodbine brings to the table.
"We had her at Saratoga but she couldn't take the crowds," Casse recalled of Catch a Glimpse's early days. "When you run a horse at Saratoga it's almost like a prize fight where the fighters come through the crowd and head to the ring...and some horses can't take that. We ran her first time out, the race came off the grass, and I could see her mind wasn't there. And so she went Woodbine.
"As a horse trainer, if you could have every first-time starter make their first start at Woodbine on the turf, it would be a great experience. You don't have to worry about the sharp turns, you can let your horse settle, and that turf is one of the best in the world."
Catch a Glimpse... (Emily Shields Photo)
The instinct that told Casse to get his flighty red charge a change in scenery was validated by results that further backed up why the Indiana native is a nine-time Sovereign Award winner for Outstanding trainer. In her second career start and first try over the Woodbine grass, Catch a Glimpse signaled what was to come over the next 11 months when she prevailed in gate-to-wire fashion in August 2015, kicking off a streak of eight straight victories that would include two Grade 1 triumphs including her barn's first Breeders' Cup win.
"I was impressed when she won the Natalma prep and then when she won the Natalma, I told (co-owner) Gary (Barber)' I think we can win the Breeders' Cup'," Casse said.
The week of the 2015 Breeders' Cup at Keeneland indeed found Casse fielding queries over whether a certain turf distaffer in his care could give him his first victory in the World Championships. Those doing the inquiring were often referring to future two-time Eclipse Award winner Tepin, but Casse let all who would hear him know that Catch a Glimpse's presence in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) was actually the best bet coming out of his barn that year.
As it turned out, both of his turf ladies held up their end of the bargain. One day after Catch a Glimpse bested an international field of 13 other rivals
- including future Grade 1 winners Time and Motion, Illuminate and Harmonize - in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, Tepin put male challengers in their place when she took the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) en route to her first divisional honors.
"I was telling everyone that I thought (Catch a Glimpse) might be our best shot to win." Casse said. "Tepin had done so well but Tepin was going to take on the world there, and I just didn't know how her form would stack up against some of the best European horses. But I kind of felt that, watching Catch a Glimpse run, we hadn't been through all her gears yet. I thought she more left. So I felt pretty good going into the Breeders' Cup with her.
"And I felt also that since she liked Woodbine that would help her at Keeneland as well."
Catch a Glimpse scores in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf (Breeders' Cup Photo)
Having handled the best in her division of either sex, the only questioned that lingered during her heyday was how far Catch a Glimpse's brilliance could hold up. Though still prone to the occasional training fit, the chestnut filly showed she had indeed learned to relax her high-strung self when it mattered as she captured the 2016 Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes
(G1) over 1 1/4 miles.
"Catch a Glimpse is one of the finest fillies I have been privileged to train," Casse said. "Her versatility at all distances is evidence of her tremendous heart and desire to excel."