01/29/2010 12:00AM

Hard to let go of an older warrior

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Owner Mike Repole has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars attempting to upgrade his stable with young horses. But in the last few years, Repole has reached into his pocket time and again to keep an old, low-level claiming horse in his barn.

Repole has spent more than $50,000 between the claim box and private purchase to regain and maintain ownership of Cool n Collective, a 13-year-old gelding who will run in Sunday's first race at Aqueduct, a $7,500 claiming event. Though records are unavailable on the subject, Repole believes Cool n Collective could become the oldest horse to win a flat race at a New York Racing Association track.

"If it was done, it was done before our lifetime," Repole said Friday.

Sunday will be the 80th start for Cool n Collective, a Canadian-bred son of Ruhlmann who has won 15 races, finished in the money 39 additional times, and earned $675,096. This will be the 11th start Cool N Collective has made for Repole, who has claimed him four times and who bought him privately last fall.

"In all my businesses are working, passionate, energetic-type people," Repole said. "This horse personifies almost everything I stand for in life. I don't care if he's running for $4,000 or a half-million dollar stakes - guts, determination, commitment, he gives an honest effort every single time out there. He's almost like the Brett Favre of horse racing."

Repole first claimed Cool n Collective for $10,000 on Nov. 26, 2006 - when the horse was 9 - and ran him for the first time on Jan. 15, 2008, in a $7,500 claimer at Aqueduct, which he won by two lengths. The horse was claimed away from Repole for that same price in February.

Over the next 15 months, Repole claimed Cool n Collective back three times for a total of $37,000 - he was even outshaken for him once. In May, 2008, the 11-year-old Cool n Collective won a $14,000 claiming race at Belmont.

In June 2008, Repole lost the horse for $10,000 in June to the Suffolk Downs-based owner/trainer Ralph Whitney. Repole didn't claim the horse when he was at Suffolk because he would have been required to keep him there. After buying the horse privately last fall - Lynn Scace had claimed him for $4,000 - Repole shipped the horse to Scott Lake at Philadelphia Park where on Nov. 29 he finished fifth.

Cool n Collective had to be scratched out of a race at Philadelphia Park earlier this month because, beginning Jan. 1, Philadelphia Park no longer accepts entries of horses who have started for $4,000.

Earlier this month, Repole transferred the horse to Bruce Brown, who will become the 11th trainer to start Cool n Collective.

"He doesn't look young, but you would never think he's as old as he is," Brown said. "On the track, he's tough, he doesn't act like a horse that's been around as long as he has. I have 8-year-olds, 9-year-olds that look older than he does."

Included in Cool n Collective's competition on Sunday is Midwatch, an 11-year-old gelding who has won 3 of his last 4 starts to end his 10-year-old campaign. He is one of several speed horses who have Brown a little concerned about this race.

"For a $7,500 it came up a little tough, and his speed is kind of his game, and there seems like there's some other speed," Brown said.

Repole said whatever happens Sunday - and beyond - he plans to find Cool n Collective a good home when the horse does eventually retire.

"If he wins I might retire him," Repole said. "It's not about the $16,000 purse. I might just write a big check to one of the foundations to take care of this horse."

Embrace Change headed to Busher

One of Repole's younger horses, the 3-year-old filly Embrace Change, will make her next start in the $65,000 Busher Stakes here on Feb. 13.

Embrace Change, a New York-bred daughter of Hook and Ladder, has won her last two starts - both against statebreds - including a maiden win by eighth lengths and a first-level allowance score by three. Both races were around two turns on the inner track.

According to Brown, Embrace Change has developed into a pleasant surprise.

"She wasn't one that anybody was real high on," Brown said, referring to early reports on the farm where she was broken. "She's one of those where the faster she goes the better she is. She would never really impress you in the morning - she kind of does what she needs to do. I really think she's got a lot of upside, she's still kind of learning."

On Thursday, Embrace Change worked a half-mile in 49.30 seconds over the training track.

Hour Glass may try Barbara Fritchie

After a sharp 3 1/4-length victory in second-level allowance race here on Sunday, Hour Glass may make her next start in the Grade 2, $150,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park on Feb. 13.

Hour Glass, in her first start for trainer Todd Pletcher, benefited from a rail-skimming ride from David Cohen to win for the third time in five career starts. She ran six furlongs in 1:10.58 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 93.

"We're exploring the Barbara Fritchie right now,"said Jonathan Thomas, the New York-based assistant to Pletcher. "She ran really well. She's a filly with a lot of quality, trains well. First start in our barn it was great to see her come out with that sort of effort."