By Alan Porter
With the older male division still looking for a clear-cut leader, Saturday’s Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I)—won last year by eventual champion older male Blame —supplied an opportunity for one of the contenders to step into that role. An open looking race offered several logical candidates, but it would have taken considerable foresight to guess that the winner would be a 6-year-old that was making his dirt debut, and running in a grade I event for only the second time in his career.
Given those credentials, it’s no surprise that Canadian invader Pool Play was dismissed at 36-1. At the back of the pack early, Pool Play had to go nine horses wide to deliver his challenge but was up in time to catch Mission Impazible by a neck, with Apart another 1¼ lengths back in third. Owned by Bill Farish, Pool Play was bred by Windfields Farm, who sold him for $60,000 as a Keeneland November weanling. Returned Keeneland the following year for the September yearling sale, Pool Play realized $625,000 to the bid of Geathers Racing Stable. Unraced at 2, Pool Play had made five starts, winning an all-weather maiden and finishing second in a turf allowance, both at Woodbine, when offered as a racing or stallion prospect at the 2008 Keeneland November sale where he was acquired by Farish for $180,000. Returned to trainer Mark Casse, who had also handled him for his first five starts, Pool Play finished fourth in a nine-furlong Woodbine turf allowance on his final outing of the year. At 4, Pooly Play started seven times, winning an allowance event, and the Durham Cup Stakes (Can-III), both on Woodbine’s all-weather surface. Pool Play’s 5-year-old season saw him make 11 starts at venues as distant as Sam Houston Race Park and Santa Anita Park in addition to Woodbine. He didn’t make it into the winner’s circle until his final two outings, when he added a 13-furlong allowance, and the 10-furlong Valedictory Handicap, again both on the all-weather at Woodbine. This year Pool Play had run three times prior to the Stephen Foster, finishing off the board in the MacDiarmida Handicap (gr. IIT) and the Pan American Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park, then taking second in the 1½-mile Elkhorn Stakes (gr. IIT) at Keeneland.
Unlike Pool Play, a late-maturing stayer, Pool Play’s sire, Silver Deputy made his name as racehorse in just two starts, both at 2. Successful by 6½ lengths in a Woodbine maiden special weight first time out, he then scored a 3½-lengths triumph in the Swynford Stakes. Forced into retirement by an injury, the son of Deputy Minister and the stakes-winning Mr. Prospector mare, Silver Valley began his stud career at Windfields Farm, Ontario, Canada standing his first season as a 4-year-old. An immediate success, siring five stakes winners, including Canadian champion 2-year-old filly Deputy Jane West from a first crop of only 21 foals, Silver Deputy subsequently moved to join his sire at Brookdale Farm near Versailles, Ky., where he would stand until being pensioned at the end of the 2008 breeding season. Overall, Silver Deputy has sired 84 stakes winners, including champion 2-year-old and champion 3-year-old filly Silverbulletday; Canadian champions Deputy Inxs, Archers Bay, Deputy Jane West, Scotzanna, Poetically, Larkwhistle; other grade I winners Spring At Last and Pool Land; and leading freshman sire, Posse.
Pool Play is out of the winning Cox’s Ridge mare, Zuri Ridge, also dam of the Remington Oaks runner-up Swift Wings. Zuri Ridge is a half sister to the outstanding turf mare Voodoo Dancer, whose victories included the Diana Handicap (gr. IT) and Garden City Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. IT). She’s also half sister to two other graded stakes placed performers, including Waycross, herself dam of the minor stakes winners Jakes Corner, Tulsa, and Cave Springs. The granddam, Zuri, is by Danzig out of the Sir Ivor mare, Visibly Different, who in turn is a daughter of the stakes-placed Tatallah (by Tatan). Tatallah only produced only one stakes winner, the Del Mar Junior Miss winner, Joi’ski, but she’s granddam of the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) victor Singletary (by Sultry Song, a son of Cox’s Ridge and so bred on similar lines to the dam of Pool Play), and of Engine One, who took the Vosburgh Handicap (gr. I), and ancestress of numerous other good winners in the United States, Europe, South America, and Japan. The family goes back through Tatallah’s dam, champion 2-year-old filly Leallah, to the notable tap-root mare, Oval. The branch which descends from Leallah’s granddam, Colosseum, has produced any number of notable performers, among them champion turf horse Manila, champion French 2-year-old Targowice, French Oaks (Fr-I) winner Lacovia, White Muzzle, who took the Italian Derby (Ity-I), and major sires Miswaki, and Southern Halo.
Rated B+ by TrueNicks, Pool Play follows Bosque Redondo and Puxa Saco as the third graded stakes winner by a son of Deputy Minister out of a Cox’s Ridge mare. Silver Deputy also sired multiple graded stakes placed Simon Pure—now a stallion in Florida—on the cross. Pool Play also has a double of Northern Dancer through Deputy Minister and Danzig, and there are approaching 30 stakes winners with Deputy Minister in the sire and Danzig in the dam, including Joe Vann, winner of this year’s Illinois Derby (gr. III), who is by Silver Deputy out of a Danzig mare.