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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Barber, MGM chief, hopes Kaigun is Plate-ready

MGM CEO and Chair Gary Barber
Thoroughbred racing has its share of prominent owners and MGM CEO Gary Barber fits the bill as his Ontario-bred colt Kaigun will try to win the 154th edition of the Queen's Plate on Sunday afternoon at Woodbine Racetrack. Barber took over the sole title of chairman and CEO of the Lion last October when his longtime partner and co-chairman Roger Birnbaum shed the title to produce exclusively for MGM full-time. The two had been partners since the mid-1990's in Spyglass Entertainment producing such successes as The Sixth Sense and Seabiscuit.

MGM which emerged from bankruptcy several years ago has undergone a renaissance since Barber and Birnbaum took over the reigns. Barber is the money guy as he is a former chartered and certified public accountant. In the first quarter of 2013, MGM continues to show large increases in revenues (168 percent over the first quarter of 2012) attributed mainly from theatrical revenues spurred from the movies Skyfall and The Hobbit according to the most recent quarterly report filed with the SEC.

Barber has long been involved with horse racing and according to his Breeders' Cup bio he owns nearly 50 thoroughbreds through various ownership interests with about half of them in training. Trainer Mark Casse trains eight of those horses, five of which are stakes winners. Barber with his partners from Quintessential Racing will start Kaigun, the lightly raced son of Northern Afleet, the sire of multiple-Classic winner Afleet Alex.

I caught up with Casse on Monday and you can tell he enjoys training for Barber continually touting him as "one of the good guys" of the sport. Later in the day Casse and Barber would team up to produce a track record with their 4-year old sensation Delegation who covered the mile and a quarter Dominion Day Stakes in 2:01.51 winning by nine and one-quarter lengths. The previous track record belonged to Strait of Dover set in last year's Queen's Plate.

Justin Stein, the rider of last year's Plate winner will get the call aboard Kaigun who worked five furlongs on Saturday in 1:00.2. With Gary Boulanger having to make a commitment on Spring in the Air early, the door was open for Stein to get the mount on Kaigun and Casse thinks the horse and jockey "will fit nicely together."

Boulanger who rode horses for Casse during the winter as part of his comeback worked Kaigun and grew fond of the chestnut colt. Gary thought so much of him he drove from Ocala to Lexington, a 12-12 hour trip just to ride him in his maiden race at Keeneland. He worked Kaigun the other day. We've been 50-50 whether Kaigun was going to run and we needed a commitment on Spring in the Air so he went ahead and made the commitment before we even knew Kaigun was going to run," said Casse.

He's a developing horse who broke his maiden in his next race at Woodbine and then finished seventh in the Plate Trial over five lengths behind the winner Dynamic Sky. Casse admittedly knows they are taking a shot with Kaigun, but he raved over his talent level during our conversation.

For Gary Barber, a win on Sunday would be the perfect script for this year's Queen's Plate.



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