Pool Play won for the first time since suffering a tendon tear last year, and picked a good race to do it. The 7-year-old son of Silver Deputy took the $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) by a half-length at Hawthorne Oct. 6 and capped off a tour de force in weekend stakes across the country for trainer Mark Casse (VIDEO).
Casse won the $400,000 Darley Alcibiades (gr. I) with Spring in the Air Oct. 5, took the $200,000 Mazarine Stakes (Can-III) Oct. 6 with Spring Venture, and saddled $400,000 Dixiana Breeders' Futurity runner-up Dynamic Sky the same afternoon. Then Pool Play closed from last to take the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup at odds of 16-1 and potentially a shot in the Breeders' Cup World Championships for owner Bill Farish.
"Bill's in Europe but we just talked briefly," Casse said. "We may take him to California to possibly run in the Marathon (gr. II)."
The big bay ran the distance in 2:06.36, while Cease was second and Eldaafer finished 1 1/4 lengths back in third. Alternation, the 4-1 favorite, showed the way but faded to last in a six-horse field.
Relaxed early under jockey Miguel Mena, Pool Play trailed the pace set by the favorite, who went a quarter mile in :24.68 and a half in :49.40 while head-to-head under pressure from Eldaafer. Mena angled his runner out to the five path after three-quarters in 1:13.97 and set him down for the drive as Alternation faded through a mile in 1:40.23. Cease swung up with a late run to threaten, but Pool Play dug in on the outside and held sway.
"This was really gratifying," Casse said. "He had a fairly serious injury and we kind of brought him back with a plan, all along waiting for a big dirt race to run him in."
The 2011 Stephen Foster (gr. I) winner, who took that Churchill Downs event with a last-to-first run at odds of 36-1 in his first dirt start, is now a perfect 2-for-2 on dirt. The majority of his 32 starts came on synthetic surfaces, especially at Woodbine, where he was a grade III winner in 2009.
Rehabbed from the injury he suffered last July, Pool Play returned this July 2 with a fourth in the Ontario Jockey Club Stakes going seven furlongs on the turf, then finished fourth in the Aug. 4 Seagram Cup Stakes (Can-III) going 1 1/16 miles on Woodbine's Polytrack. Last time out, he was third in the Washington Park (gr. III) on the Arlington Park Polytrack Sept. 1.
Pool Play paid $34, $8, and $8 for his Gold Cup win. Cease returned $3.20 and $3.40 while Eldaafer paid $9.20. Mister Marti Gras, Fly Lexis Fly, and Alternation completed the order of finish. Nates Mineshaft scratched.
Bred in Ontario by Windfields Farm out of the Cox's Ridge mare Zuri Ridge, Pool Play has a 7-6-6 record from 32 starts with earnings of $1,240,615.