It's a partnership that helped Casse Racing win four Breeders' Cup races and the Queen's Plate. But now trainer Mark Casse will have to chase an elusive Kentucky Derby crown without his right-hand man.
After 10 years as a top assistant trainer with Casse Racing, Norman Casse will operate his new stable in 2018 with his celebrated father's blessings.
"This has been talked about for quite some time and I think it's important for him to go out on his own," Mark Casse said via telephone from Ocala, Fla. "There's no question in my mind Norman knows how to train a good horse and he's as good as probably anybody out there.
"But (being on his own) is different, it's like coaching with a World Series or Stanley Cup champion and now you go back to the minor leagues. He's going to need to develop his own stars and it takes time, patience and money, a lot of money.
"Anybody will tell you when you start up a business you must survive the first year. Those are some of the things Norman will have to face but you know what? He's a smart young man, he's confident, he's a great horseman. He'll do just fine."
Norman Casse has been responsible for running Casse Racing horses in the U.S while managing strings at Fair Grounds Race Course, Churchill Downs, Saratoga and Keeneland. He also helped prepare Breeders' Cup champions Catch a Glimpse ('15 Juvenile Fillies Turf and Canada's horse of the year), filly Tepin ('15 Mile), Classic Empire ('16 Juvenile) and World Approval ('17 Mile).
Tepin and World Approval also won the 2016 and 2017 Ricoh Woodbine Mile events, respectfully, while filly Lexie Lou earned Casse Racing its first Queen's Plate in 2014.
Casse said his son's contribution can't be measured by wins alone.
"I wouldn't be where I am today without Norman," said Casse, nine times Canada's top trainer and member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. "I'm always trying to be bigger and better and Norman helped me do that by bringing in new ideas.
"But we'll continue to use the things we learned from Norman . . . and he'll continue using what he learned from me."
Casse credits his son, who was recently engaged to American racing analyst Gabby Gaudet, for getting him more involved in U.S. racing.
"Two things got me back into the U.S.," Casse said. "Norman and what happened in 2012 (Ontario government cancelling its slots-at-racetracks funding program) which made me sit up and say, 'I can't sit here and rely on this uncertainty. I have to go out and make changes.'"
However, Casse said his business is well positioned to absorb Norman Casse's departure.
"If you ask me what I'm most proud of, it would be our team," Casse said. "David Adams, who runs our Woodbine division, has been with me over 20 years.
"(Farm manager) Mitch Downs is with me in Ocala and has been with us for 37 years. With any big team, it's more than just one person and we've been preparing for this for a while so we're good."
The Casses come by their horsemanship honestly. Mark Casse's father, Norman, served as chairman of Ocala Breeders' Sales Company for 28 years after co-founding the organization while also helping develop the OBS sales program. The elder Norman Casse, who died in 2016 at age 79, also owned Cardinal Hill Farm and served as the chairman of the Society of International Thoroughbred Auctioneers.
"I learned the horse business from my dad but I'm a little different from the average horse trainer in that I was in the breeding business long before I was in the training business," Mark Casse said. "I also grew up buying horses and going to horse sales and so much of our success is in the recruiting.
"Norman kind of got the hand-picked ones (with Casse Racing) and that's not going to happen. When I was growing up I had a bunch of bad horses and so it took me a long time and I didn't have that knowledge, it's something that grew on me. Norman knows good horses and what to do when he has them, he just has to figure out how to get them."
Norman Casse will have the experience of his long run with his father to draw upon but Mark Casse said the keys to horse-racing success — as in any business — are simple: hard work, dedication and persistence.
"He's going to feel some pressure," Mark Casse said. "I'm very proud of the Casse name and want Norman to enjoy the same fortunes I've had, even more.
"Who knows how much longer I'm going to be doing this and Norman is going to continue our legacy and name."
Mark Casse looks forward to the day when both he and his son have horses running in the same major races.
"That would mean so much to me," he said. "I feel like I've given him a bit of a push, a head start but now he's got to take it and go.
"In football terms, most people begin near their own goal-line whereas Norman is getting the ball at the 40- or 50-yard line. But it's never easy to score."
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press