Legendary Saratoga socialite and philanthropist Marylou Whitney visited the Gulfstream Park winner's circle alongside husband John Hendrickson Saturday, celebrating homebred Mischievous Bird's impressive 3 ¾-length triumph in the fifth race.
The 93-year-old thoroughbred owner and breeder, who has been battling health issues during the winter months, was all smiles when greeted by winning jockey Julien Leparoux.
“I feel fine now that you won,” she told Leparoux, who was in total control aboard the 3-year-old son of Into Mischief during the six-furlong maiden special weight event.
Mischievous Bird was making his first start since finishing off-the-board in his debut after a troubled trip at Saratoga Aug. 25, when he was a well-backed 2-1.
“I told Julien, 'Six months later we got what we expected,” trainer Norm Casse said.
Mischievous Bird ($13.60) broke alertly to press the pace set by Chad Brown-trained Sayyaaf along the backstretch and around the turn before pulling away to victory when asked for some run in the stretch. The Kentucky-bred colt ran six furlongs in 1:12.40 to comfortably prevail over a late-running Island Song, who nosed out Sayyaaf for the place.
“This horse is a little bit of a challenge in the morning. He's tough; he's really tough on himself in the morning. Marylou and John gave us all the time we needed to get this horse to the right spot that he needed to be in today,” Casse said. “He was forwardly placed today, but he was relaxed and doing it within himself. It took him a long time to get him to do that and now, from here on out, we can build on that.”
Casse derived special satisfaction while visiting the winner's circle with a horse campaigned by Whitney and Hendrickson.
“It just means so much to me, because when I went out on my own, there wasn't a whole lot of support. I think people thought I'd have a barnful of horses, and that was not the case. Marylou and John really were the first owners to call and say, 'Hey, we're going to get behind you,'” said Casse, who went out on his own early last year after serving as the top assistant for his father Mark Casse. “For this horse to win today with Marylou in attendance means a lot.”
Casse doesn't have set plans for Mischievous Bird's next start.
“We'll play it by ear and see whatever the next race is. [Stretching out] is a possibility, but right now I think he's more of a sprinter type,” Casse said. “You never know. You let the horses answer the question.”
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