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Gulfstream News & Notes
Pool Play Better Suited to Conditions of Donn Handicap
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.”
Citrus Kid Earns Shot at a Big One in Donn Handicap
Grade 1 stakes-placed on turf, Citrus Kid will enter Grade 1 action on dirt in Saturday’s $500,000 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. The 6-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid earned a start in the 1 1/8-mile handicap for older horses with a sharp allowance score over Gulfstream’s main track in his first start in 15 months.
“Since he came out of that race so well, we were looking for a spot. He was training so well, why not give him a shot at a big one?” trainer John Terranova said. “He couldn’t be coming into it any better.”
Citrus Kid, who set a pressured pace in the one-turn mile allowance over the main track on Dec. 19 before holding off heavily favored El Padrino, hadn’t raced since finishing second in a turf stakes at Parx in September 2011.
“They ran on a very boggy course that day, and he came out with a soft tissue injury,” Terranova said. “He had a tendon injury that required a lot of time and rehab. Since he’s come back he’s had no setbacks. He’s been fantastic.”
Citrus Kid had success on dirt early in his career, breaking his maiden and capturing the Dover Stakes at Delaware Park during his 2-year-old season. After a third in the Remsen (G2) and finishing out of the money in the Lecomte (G3), he was switched to turf, over which he’s won twice and finished second in the Jamaica (G1).
Heading into the Donn, Terranova still is not certain if his veteran performer prefers turf or dirt.
“I don’t know for sure. We’ll let him tell us, but it’s nice to have the option to jump back to a different surface if needed,” he said. “We’ll give him a chance to show how good he is on dirt, at least for right now.”
After losing Citrus Kid for 15 months, Terranova is happy to have him back in his barn no matter what surface he prefers.
“He was just starting to come into his own. Lemon Drop Kids get better with age. That was the latter part of his 4-year-old year, and he was just really starting to show big promise,” he said. “We were hopefully on the road to doing some good things, and we got sidetracked. Hopefully, we’re back and we can make up for lost time.”
Terranova also has a promising 3-year-old in his stable in Falling Sky, who captured a Gulfstream allowance race on Dec 15 before capturing the $250,000 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday. His next start is still up in the air.
“We haven’t figured it out yet. He went back to the track today. He looks great. Several options will be there for everybody, so we’ll see what makes sense going forward. We’ll talk it over with the owners and see what everyone’s comfortable with,” Terranova said. “Of course, we’ll let the horse lead us there. We’ll probably have more direction in the next week or so.”