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Pool Play Serious Factor in Donn 'Cap

Pool Play Stephen Foster top story.
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 Csaba.

“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 racetrack.’”

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.”

 

 

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