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Pool Play Takes Hawthorne Gold Cup

William S. Farish Jr.’s Pool Play, trained by Mark Casse, was dismissed as the second longest shot on the board in Saturday’s Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup, despite being the only Grade 1 winner in the field. That didn’t deter him, or rider Miguel Mena from going from last to first to grind out a half-length victory.
The Grade 2, $500,000 Gold Cup saw the complexion of the race change early on the morning of the race when probable pacesetter Nate’s Mineshaft was scratched.  That scratch led to some uncertainty as to where the pace would come.  When the horses sprung from the gate, favored Alternation went to the front, pushed along by Eldaafer through the opening half mile.  Into the turn, Cease joined in on the action while Mister Marti Gras rallied along the inside.
Pool Party trailed the field for most of the race and was still last at the quarter pole but shifted out to the five path in the upper stretch and surged to a narrow lead mid-stretch.  Under Miguel Mena, Pool Play emerged ahead inside the final sixteenth and managed to hold off Cease and Eldaafer at the wire. The win was the seventh in the career of Pool Play from 31 races, and boosted his career earnings to $1,240,616.  Cease held well for second, followed by Eldaafer, Mister Marti Gras, Fly Lexis Fly and Alternation.  Pool Play went the mile and a quarter in 2:06.36 on a track labeled fast.
Miguel Mena, the rider of Pool Play, was happy to see the winner back on dirt, “I won the Stephen Foster the last time I rode him. I had confidence in him because I knew he could handle the dirt. He loved the long stretch here. He just keeps coming. He got a good trip even though the pace was slow. When we got to the three-eighths pole, I was pretty excited. I was trying to stay away from Cease, who was also coming late.”
Randi Melton, asst. trainer Pool Play: "The long stretch really plays to our favor, and Miguel knows the horse. He's about as good as he can get right now."
Jesse Campbell rode the second-place finisher Cease, “We had a perfect trip. The horse ran big, we just got beat. I was pretty much where I wanted to be the whole race. He ran very well to the quarter pole, he just got beat. He gave me everything he had, no regrets, no excuses.”
Pool Play paid $34.00, $8.00, and $8.00. Cease returned $3.20 and $3.40. Eldaafer brought back $9.20.


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