Famed Ocala horse trainer fights back tears as he discusses legacy at Breeders’ Cup World Championships

This past weekend’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships showed the many aspects that make the sport such an exciting adventure.

There was competition, pageantry and lots and lots of emotion.

The local area, Ocala mainly, was well represented in all aspects of the fun and excitement.

If nothing else, the races showed that the best Europeans can beat the Americans on dirt and the best American runners could defeat the Europeans on the turf. It wasn’t that many years ago that the visitors dominated the turf races and the home team was always best on the dirt.

When Stormy Liberal won the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint for trainer Peter Miller, he pushed his winnings over $1 million. He sold at Ocala Breeders’ Cup’s 2014 June Sale for $100,000.

Collected ran second in the Classic. He sold for $170,000 in the 2015 OBS March Sale.

Sharp Azteca finished second in the dirt mile. Sharp Azteca was sold twice at OBS, the second time for $220,000 at the 2015 April Sale.

Alluring Star finished second in the Juvenile Fillies. She sold for $850,000 at the 2017 March Sale.

It was a big day for local ties when World Approval, ridden by John Velazquez, romped home in the Mile.

He is owned and was bred by Charlotte Weber, the granddaughter of Campbell Soup founder John T. Dorrance.

Weber’s breeding farm in Ocala is Live Oak Stud and her racing operation is Live Oak Plantation.

Weber also owned and bred 2006 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Miesque’s Approval.

World Approval is trained by Ocala trainer Mark Casse.

The emotion was unbelievable.

Mark Casse, right, hugging his son, assistant trainer Norm Casse. World Approval wins the Breeders Cup Mile on November 4, 2017. Photo by Anne Eberhardt

Casse fought back tears as he talked about how his late father Norman introduced him to Weber and how his son Norman, named after his grandfather, is leaving as his dad’s assistant to go out on his own. He said the biggest tribute he could make to his dad was naming his son after him. Then the tears really started welling up.

Weber talked about World Approval in endearing terms. She talked about her “baby boy” not liking the position he was in during the race’s running.

When jockey Jose Ortiz guided Good Magic to victory in the Juvenile, he talked to him like his own child. He yelled “You did it buddy. I love you. You did it buddy. Way to go buddy, I love you” as he patted the runner’s neck over-and-over.

But the wildest celebrations came from Miller and fellow trainer Steve Asmussen.

When Stormy Liberal won, Richard’s Boy, a horse also trained by Miller, ran second.

Miller jumped into the arms of anyone around and screamed at the top of his lungs. It was dangerous to be anywhere near Miller’s posse during his celebration.

When Miller’s Roy H won the Sprint, later on the card,  Miller’s posse gave him plenty of room.

Asmussen may have outdone Miller when his Gun Runner took the Classic.

Asmussen was also presented a danger to his posse when his celebration began. The only thing is Asmussen is much bigger and his flailing body is much more dangerous than Miller’s.

It is very probable there were more than a couple injuries in the pair of trainer’s celebrations.

Leilana Ortiz is the daughter of jockeys Jose Ortiz and the former Taylor Rice. Born in June, her name means Heavenly Flower in Hawaiian.

She made a couple of appearances in the Breeders’ Cup winner’s circle.

The first came when her uncle Irad Ortiz, Jr., rode Bar of Gold to victory in the Filly & Mare Sprint.

She returned when pops won the Juvenile on Good Magic.