Trainer Mark Casse entered Pool Play
in the Hal’s Hope (G3) at
Gulfstream Park on Jan.13 without any expectations that the 8-year-old
veteran would be a serious factor in the one-turn, one-mile prep for
Saturday’s $500,000 Donn Handicap.
The millionaire son of Silver Deputy, whose late-running style is
more geared to two-turn races, was very much a factor in the Hal’s Hope
while closing from last to fall just a neck short of victory behind
“It was better than I thought it would be. He’s come out of that
race and has been training better than ever,” Casse said. “If they give
him some pace to run at in the Donn, I think he’ll do really well.”
Pool Play was ridden by Miguel Mena, who ventured from Fair Grounds to Gulfstream for the second-place finish.
“Miguel knows him quite well. We were contemplating not bringing him
in for the last race because we thought he didn’t have much of a shot
because he needed the race,” Casse said. “We went ahead and brought him
in and I’m glad we did. Miguel said afterwards, ‘He loves this
Prior to his Gulfstream start, Pool Play was never a factor during
an eighth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita.
“He did not like Santa Anita at all. Miguel said he just kind of
went around there. He couldn’t get him to pick up the bit,” Casse said.
Pool Play won the 2011 Stephen Foster (G1) at Churchill Downs but
was sidelined with a severe tendon injury for more than a year.
“I’m proud of him, being 8 years old and because he had that injury
almost a year and a half ago. It was doubtful he’d ever come back and
run,” Casse said. “For him to come back and run and at the level he’s at
just shows you what kind of horse he is.”
Casse, who is convinced that training over synthetic racetracks has
extended Pool Play’s career, has been impressed with the Ontario-bred’s
training at Palm Meadows Training Center.
“Just recently, he thinks he’s 2 or 3 again,” Casse said. “When he goes off (to the track), he’s bucking and kicking.”