Two horses that have enjoyed some of their finest moments over the main track at Churchill Downs worked at the track Friday in preparation for their respective bids for
next week’s first running of the $175,000-added Homecoming Classic, the last of eight stakes races conducted during the September meet.
William S. Farish Jr.’s Pool Play, winner of the 2011 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI), and Robert and Lawanna Low’s Agent Di Nozzo, an impressive allowance winner over the stakes-winning Taptowne
in a May 31 allowance race at the track, each worked five furlongs
Friday. The Homecoming Classic, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and
up, is set for the “Downs After Dark” program on Saturday, Sept.. 28.
Trainer Mark Casse’s
Pool Play zipped five furlongs in 1:01, which tied as the fourth fastest
of 27 works at the distance. The eight-year-old son of Silver Deputy
will be looking to snap a seven-race losing
stretch when he faces a tough field in the Homecoming Classic field
headed by Janis R. Whitham’s reigning Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Fort Larned, who was a romping winner of the 2013 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) at Churchill Downs.
Agent Di Nozzo also worked five-eighths in 1:01 under the guidance of Shaun Bridgmohan, who will have the Homecoming Classic mount aboard the 4-year-old Ghostzapper gelding for trainer Steve Margolis.
“He had a bullet work last week and came back and worked really good this week,” said Norman Casse,
the trainer’s son and the assistant who oversees the stable’s Churchill
Downs division. “We’re going to give
him a chance, although the race is coming up a lot tougher than we were
expecting it to. He’s back training the way he was when he was really on
top of his game.”
Pool Play’s last victory was a
triumph last October in the Hawthorne Gold Cup (GII). He comes into the
race off a third-place run over a muddy track in the Greenwood Cup
(GIII) at Philadelphia’s Parx. The veteran has
made 39 career starts with a record of 7-7-7 and earnings of $1,311,459.
Miguel Mena will ride Pool Play in the Homecoming Classic.
“We’re excited about the opportunity,” Margolis said. “We know it’s a tough race, but we’re happy with our horse.”
Agent Di Nozzo is coming off a disappointing fifth-place finish behind Wilcox Inn
as the favorite in the Washington Park Handicap (GIII), which was run
over the synthetic Polytrack surface at Arlington Park.
Prior to that effort Agent Di Nozzo had won back-to-back outings over
dirt in the Golden Bear Stakes at Indiana Downs and his allowance
victory at Churchill Downs.
“He definitely didn’t handle
that Polytrack, but he’s had two good races at Churchill this spring,”
Margolis said. “I think the extra distance will be good for us. Shaun
really liked the way he went this morning. He
went really good.”
Along with his win in the
Golden Bear, Agent Di Nozzo also won the Borgata Stakes at Louisiana
Downs. He has a career record of 7-2-2 in 15 races and has earned
Others considered possible for the Homecoming Classic include Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Golden Ticket, the Ken McPeek trainee who was runner-up to Fort Larned in the Stephen Foster and
dead-heat winner of the 2012 Travers (GI); the Charlie LoPresti-trained duo of Mort Fink’s homebred Successful Dan, who was disqualified from first to third in the 2011 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) and runner-up to
Cross Traffic in the Whitney, and the Estate of Elaine Klein, Richard and Bertram Klein Windswept, a recent allowance winner at Saratoga; and Zayat Stable LLC’s Prayer for Relief, a $1.5 million career-earner and winner of the Prairie
Meadows Cornhusker (GIII) and Remington Park Governor’s Cup for trainer Steve Asmussen.