Throughout their partnership which has yielded more than 80 stakes victories to date, trainer Mark Casse and jockey Patrick Husbands jokingly spar over which one pulls the most weight in the relationship.
"He calls me up all the time and says, 'I'm making you look good,' and I say, 'No I'm making you look good,'" Casse laughed Friday.
One thing both agreed upon in the aftermath of the Grade I Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland is that race victor Spring in the Air successfully made all parties look equally brilliant.
The first half of Casse's plan to keep his top juvenile fillies apart — and, thus, keep multiple owners happy — went off without a wrinkle Friday. One day before her stablemate Spring Venture competes in Woodbine's Grade III Mazarine, 4-to-1 favorite Spring in the Air rolled up on the outside path for a one-length triumph in the $400,000 Alcibiades before a Fall Meet opening-day crowd of 18,417 at Keeneland.
After Spring in the Air was defeated by Spring Venture in the Grade II Natalma over the Woodbine turf on Sept. 15, the main request from owner John Oxley was to put his filly on a path away from the fellow Casse trainee.
The 11⁄16-mile Alcibiades proved the perfect diversion for Spring in the Air as the daughter of Spring at Last advanced steadily on an outside path to earn her first graded stakes triumph and a likely trip to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita Park next month.
"She's starting to grow on me," Casse said of Spring in the Air. "When we bought her (at the 2012 OBS March 2-year-old sale), I told Mr. Oxley you wouldn't go buy her in a yearling sale because she's just very average looking. But she moves — on a scale of one to 10, she's a 10.
"The other filly is a little tougher to handle and we thought maybe bringing her to Keeneland might set her off a little bit. This filly is pure class, she doesn't care about anything."
Reuinted with Husbands, who rode the bay filly in her first two career starts before piloting Spring Venture last time out, Spring in the Air was about 8 lengths from the front heading into the lane as Magical Moon took over the lead after sitting off a half mile in :47.13.
Husbands angled his mount out and got a wicked response from just mild urging, hitting the wire in 1:44.33 with long shot Broken Spell two lengths clear of Magical Moon for second.
Spring in the Air broke her maiden over Woodbine's Polytrack by 101/4 lengths in August but Casse didn't feel shifting her form to dirt would be an issue.
"Honestly she'll do anything you want her to do," he said. "I ran her on the grass simply because there was nowhere to go."
In the day's other graded stakes, Tom Amoss trainee Sum of the Parts put himself in the discussion for a possible start in the Breeders' Cup Sprint when he earned a 11/4-length truimph in the Grade III, $175,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes.
The son of Speightstown won in gate-to-wire fashion under jockey Julien Leparoux, stopping the teletimer in 1:09.88 going 6 furlongs for his first graded score in 10 career starts.
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com.