Sports

Queen's Plate champion Lexie Lou's racing future to be decided shortly

Lexie Lou won't run again this year and the 2014 Canadian horse of the year's racing career could be over.

Trainer Mark Casse, who earned his first career Plate win with Lexie Lou in '14, said the five-year-old champion filly's season is done and a decision on her future will be announced shortly.

"There'll be a decision made in the next few days," Casse said in a telephone interview Friday.

Lexie Lou will be made available at the Keeneland's November Breeding Stock Sale, which begins Nov. 8 in Lexington, Ky. If she's purchased, her new owner will decide whether to run her in 2017 or breed her.

Lexie Lou finishes 2016 having won three-of-six starts, including her last two — the 1 1/8-mile Grade 2 Dance Smartly on July 3 and 1 1/16-mile Victoriana Stakes on July 30. But despite that success, Casse said Lexie Lou hasn't been her usual self, prompting the decision to end her 2016 campaign.

"We know her really well and she just isn't her happy-go-lucky self," Casse said. "We haven't felt like she's at her best and I'm not going to run her if she's not at her best."

In addition to a third-place finish, Lexie Lou was sixth in the Grade 3 Endeavour Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in February — won by '16 Woodbine Mile champion and Casse-trained Tepin — and 10th in the Grade 1 Just a Game Stakes in July at Belmont.

However, if Lexie Lou's final two races of 2016 prove to be her last, she'll at least have finished her impressive racing career in the winner's circle.

Lexie Lou ran 18 races at Woodbine Racetrack, finishing in the money 13 times (first nine times, second twice and third on two occasions). She developed quite a following at her home-town track — where she's won six of her last eight starts — prompting Casse to call her "the peoples' champion."

Overall, in 24 career starts Lexie Lou finished in the money 18 times (10 wins, second four times, third four times) for over $1.7 million in earnings. Her best season was 2014 when the daughter of Sligo Bay had four wins (including the Plate and Woodbine Oaks), one second and a third in eight races to amass over $1.195 million in purse money.

Lexie Lou was named Canada's horse of the year, champion turf female and top three-year-old filly in 2014 and also finished second to Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby. The determined filly remains one of Casse's favourite horses.

"She's right up there with the top," he said. "She was our first Queen's Plate winner.

"I'd say her victory would be in the top-five of our career."

Lexie Lou came from humble beginnings, though.

Veteran owner-trainer John Ross first saw Lexie Lou at auction in September 2012 and paid $5,576 for her. He then promptly named the unsung filly after his first granddaughter, Lexie.

Lexie Lou earned $310,244 as a two-year-old before Ross sold her to Gary Barber, the chairman and CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, reportedly for $400,000. Lexie Lou immediately flourished under Casse, winning both the Oaks and Plate in her first year with the new connections.

Although none of Lexie Lou's brothers and sisters made it into racing, she has a solid pedigree. Her broodmare sire, In Excess, was a solid horse (winning four straight Grade 1 races in '91) who produced many quality runners before dying last year at age 26.

Her dam, Oneexcessivenite, won four of 18 starts while her sire, Sligo Bay, is the son of Sadler's Wells, a Grade 1 turf champion.

And Casse has always been to acknowledge Ross's role in Lexie Lou's development into a champion horse.

"I commend John Ross, he's a great horseman," Casse said. "He puts up his own money, he puts his money where his mouth is.

"He's a very sharp guy. I have nothing but the utmost respect for him."