Summers in Kentucky and winters in Florida—that’s the lifestyle of Norman Casse. As a horse trainer, he often travels with his “work product” as horses follow him from Churchill Downs in Kentucky to Palm Meadows Training Center near Boynton Beach, Florida. Casse lives in West Palm Beach during the wintertime, a half hour north of Palm Meadows.
Like grandfather, like father, like son, Norman Casse has followed in his family’s horse training footsteps. He is a trainer with his father Mark’s business, Casse Racing. A native Louisvillian, Casse lives in the Derby City but in spring and fall he is in Lexington once or twice a week when Casse Racing has horses at Keeneland.
“We’ve been the leading trainer at Keeneland in the spring of 2014 and recently in the fall of 2015,” he said. Speaking of late October, Casse Racing won two Breeders’ Cup races, thank you very much.
“That was a really cool deal,” Casse said. “We had tried for a long time and were 0-for-25 in the Breeders’ Cup.”
Actually, he’d had it in the back of his mind that it would be nice to win the Breeders’ Cup when it came back home to Kentucky. “Keeneland is a special place for us,” he said. “We train there. Dad bought horses there to begin with, so for them to come back and run there is important.”
Casse has a business administration degree from Bellarmine University, where he played baseball during his freshman year. As a kid, he loved baseball and wanted to play professionally. “I figured out I wasn’t good enough,” he said. He quit the team so he could focus on horse racing while finishing his degree.
Although he didn’t live with his father growing up, he spent summers in Canada with him. “I’d go to the barn every morning,” he said. When he graduated from college, he moved to Ocala to run the business end of his dad’s farm in Florida.
“I was miserable,” Casse said. It turned out the business end he preferred was in a stable.
“One day I called and told Dad I was going to train racehorses,” he said. “I drove nonstop to Toronto.” That was in 2006 and Casse has been a horse trainer ever since. The majority of horses he has worked with are Kentucky bred Thoroughbreds.
Casse Racing brought six horses to the Breeders’ Cup weekend in Lexington and won two races. “It was an extremely gratifying moment for me and my family,” he said. “Everybody got to be there, including my mom, who doesn’t necessarily get to come all the time.”
Catch a Glimpse, a Keeneland-based filly, won the Breeders’ Cup $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf on Friday, Oct. 30. Tepin, who has been at Churchill Downs her whole career, won the $2 million BC Mile on Saturday—a filly winning against the boys.
Churchill is where Casse spends most of his workdays when he is in Kentucky. Casse Racing has 36 stalls on the grounds, filled to capacity. In December he heads back to Palm Meadows in Florida, the satellite training facility of Gulfstream Park. While racing has its seasons, horse training is year-round. “I don’t really ever get a break,” he said. The horses he has at Churchill and Keeneland will winter with Casse at Palm Meadows or at the Casse family farm in Ocala, Florida.
“We’re really proud of our company,” he said. “A lot of horse trainers just have stalls at the tracks. We have it where my dad goes and picks horses out and they go to the farm; we break them for our clients, and they come to the race track.”
If a horse gets hurt and needs to rehab, there’s a Casse farm for the horse during that rehabilitation period. “When a horse is bought by us they stay with us through their career,” Casse said. “It’s different from other trainers.”
Up at 4 in the morning, Casse is at the barn by 5 a.m. seven days a week. “Basically, the first hour of my day is probably the most important,” he said. “I go through every stall, check on the horses, and then the regular routine of training every horse. That ends about 11:00.” If it’s race day, he stays at the track until the last race on the card. If not, he may get a chance to run home. In his spare time–not that he has much–Casse lifts weights and works out. “Horse racing is my life,” he said.