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Casse Has Two for Hal's Hope Stakes

Trainer Mark Casse
Photo: Woodbine Entertainment

Trainer Mark Casse expects Delegation to run a much-improved race in Sunday’s $100,000 Hal’s Hope (G3) at Gulfstream Park, buoyed by the knowledge that his 4-year-old gelding was not at his fittest in his second-place finish behind Csaba in the $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday at Gulfstream on Dec. 16.

“That horse trained on synthetic his entire career. When we brought him out to Santa Anita, we thought it was as close as you can get to running on synthetic, because it’s faster and horses seem to skip over it. I wasn’t really concerned with it. I thought he ran really well,” said Casse, who saddled Delegation for a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) prior to his runner-up finish in the Harlan’s Holiday. “He came out of the race a little tired, as most horses would be. But when he ran him at Gulfstream, he was exhausted. That is a much more trying surface.”

Delegation was one of Casse’s five Breeders’ Cup starters who got sick upon leaving Santa Anita, and had only two breezes before the Harlan’s Holiday.

Although confident that Delegation will be fitter for the Hal’s Hope, he’s not about to predict victory.

“I think he should be a better horse than he was three weeks ago. But, I’m going to tell you, he going to have to be a lot better horse, because the winner was impressive. I’m not taking anything away from him. That was impressive,” said Casse of Csaba, who won by nearly four lengths in the Harlan’s Holiday. “I’m not sure we can beat him, but we’re going to give it one more try.”

Casse, though, has very high expectations for Gary Barber’s Delegation as the 2013 racing season unfolds.

“I think if Delegation continues to improve, I think he will be one of the best older horses in North America this year,” he said.

Casse will also saddle William Farish Jr.’s Pool Play, a late supplement for the one-turn, one-mile Hal’s Hope, which he hopes will serve as a prep for the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream on Feb. 9.

“We don’t have any other spots. He isn’t eligible for any allowance races. The mile is definitely too short for him. Initially, we weren’t going to go there, but after much discussion, Bill Farish and I, decided that it was the best of the worst scenarios,” Casse said. “Bill and I thought the best chance for him to have any chance of making the Donn, he’d have to run there, and that’s why we supplemented him.”

Pool Play, who finished off-the-board in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) last time out, previously captured the Hawthorne Gold Cup (G2) on Oct. 6, “As a trainer, he’s one of my proudest accomplishments,” Casse said. “He started his career late. I didn’t have him as a 2-year-old, but he was injured before he ever went to the races. He was owned by WinStar, who bought him as a weanling, and as a 3-year-old, I ran him a couple times. WinStar sells a lot of their horse in November of their 3-year-old year, and he was in a sale. I called Bill and told him I thought he was a talented horse. Bill bought him for $180,000 and he’s won $1.2 million.”

Pool Play’s biggest victory came in the 2011 Stephen Foster (G1) at Churchill Downs.

"After he won the Foster, we took him to Saratoga and the first week we got there, he was injured. The (tendon) injury was a significant injury, bad enough that two vets who examined him doubted he’d ever come back. He came back. When he won the Hawthorne Gold Cup, in my thoughts, it was one of the biggest training feats of my career,” said Casse, who had prepped the 8-year-old son of Silver Deputy on turf and synthetic surfaces to prime him for the Hawthorne Gold Cup.


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