12/03/2010 1:11PM

Marathon distance of Valedictory plays to Pool Play's strength

Michael Burns
Pool Play should relish the 1 3/4 miles of Sunday's closing-day feature, the Valedictory.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Pool Play’s fondness for extended route distances should bode well for him Sunday at Woodbine Racetrack in the 1 3/4-mile Valedictory Stakes. The $150,000 event, which is the closing day feature of the 167-day meet, has brought together a field of nine that also includes Canadian 3-year-old champion Eye of the Leopard and the popular Helicopter.

Pool Play went winless in his first nine starts this year, which included a narrow loss to Hold Me Back in the Grade 3 Dominion Day Stakes at 1 1/4 miles. In the 1 5/8-mile allowance prep for the Valedictory, he rallied from ninth to score by three lengths under Luis Contreras.

Trainer Mark Casse said Pool Play has the right demeanor for marathon distances.

“Pool Play is the type of horse that you can turn on and turn off,” Casse explained. “He’ll go when you ask him to. The problem with him in shorter races is he doesn’t have the top speed of horses like Stunning Stag. But the farther they go, the more he can turn it on and off. He can run all day long.”

Patrick Husbands will ride Pool Play after a one-race absence. He has won three races on Pool Play, including the 2009 Durham Cup.

“Patrick knows him better than anybody,” Casse said.

Eye of the Leopard, the 2009 Queen’s Plate winner and champion 3-year-old, was a stalking second in the Nov. 6 prep. His lone victory this year came Sept. 15 in a 1 1/16-mile optional claimer, his first start since rejoining trainer Mark Frostad’s barn.

“He ran a good race in the prep,” said Frostad. “A mile and three-quarters isn’t going to bother him. It’s just if the pace is too slow, then they turn it into a sprint. That makes it difficult for him, because he doesn’t have that real big kick.”

Helicopter, based at Hawthorne with trainer Larry Rivelli, has won 7 of 11 outings this year, while competing at six different tracks.

Helicopter came from far back to land a 2 1/4-mile starter allowance on the Tapeta surface at Presque Isle on Sept. 25. He subsequently shipped here for the prep, in which he closed for third after encountering traffic on the far turn.

In his final tune-up for the Valedictory on Nov. 16 at Mountaineer, Helicopter finished second over a sloppy track in a 1 3/4-mile starter.