Florida horseman Norman E. Casse dies at age 79

Norman E. Casse, one of the most prominent horsemen in Florida and father of leading trainer Mark Casse, died on March 6 in Ocala, Florida after a lengthy illness. He was 79.

A native of Indiana, Casse was among the founders of the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company in 1974 and went on to serve as its chairman until his retirement in 2006. Though he was not born into the racing industry – the family business was selling fire equipment – Casse caught the racing bug and began buying and selling horses from a 12-acre farm in Indianapolis before eventually moving to Ocala where he operated his Cardinal Hill Farm.

Casse also previously served as president of the Indiana Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association and operated Nationwide Horse Van Co. Among the notable horses he bred was Beldale Ball, winner of the 1980 Melbourne Cup, and he also sold multiple Grade I winner Lost Code at the 1985 OBS yearling sale.

In addition to overseeing the development of OBS into a major auction house, Casse passed on his passion to his sons Mark, John and Justin as each made their own impact in the horse industry. Justin Casse is a bloodstock agent who operates Casse Sales and John Casse sells equine insurance.

Mark Casse, a multiple Sovereign Award winner and conditioner of reigning champion turf female, Tepin, said he knew by the age of 10 that being a horse trainer was his destiny. He was helping his father operate Cardinal Hill Farm while still in his teens and credits his father with instilling him and his brothers with the diligence needed to have success in an unforgiving industry.

“From the beginning my dad had a great love for horse racing. He first got in by going to Keeneland with his father,” Mark Casse said of his father during an interview with the Herald-Leader last November. “I would say he instilled in me a strong, strong work ethic. I mean, we worked my brother and I and he made us work. But the thing that probably he was most successful with was his knowledge of pedigrees and then teaching me that. So I’m a big pedigree guy, I believe in it.”

Mark Casse’s eldest son and top assistant, Norman, is named for the family patriarch.

“Seeing my three sons in the business and succeeding is more than I ever could have asked for,” Norman E. Casse said in an interview with Blood-Horse in 2008. “I just hope they continue on with what they are doing. Whether they know it or not, I am their biggest booster.”

Alicia Wincze Hughes: 859-231-1676, @horseracinghl