02/24/2010 1:00AM

Pool Play making long trip for Big Cap


Trainer Mark Casse is willing to ship Pool Play across the United States in search of a big prize on a synthetic track.

Based in Florida, Pool Play is a candidate for the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 6 after showing an affinity for synthetic tracks at Woodbine last year, Casse said on Wednesday.

"He likes the synthetics and a mile and a quarter will not be a problem," Casse said by telephone.

Another bonus is the absence of any of the division leaders. Zenyatta, the undefeated winner of the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic, will make her 2010 debut in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Handicap on March 13. Gio Ponti, the two-time champion from 2009 who was second to Zenyatta in the BC Classic, is now based in Florida.

Richard's Kid, who won the San Antonio Handicap earlier this month, will not start in the Santa Anita Handicap in favor of the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 27, trainer Bob Baffert said on Wednesday.

"The top, top horses are on the dirt," Casse said, referring to some of Florida's leading runners. "Looking at the horses on the synthetic, we look like we fit in with them. This is as good of time as any to try it."

Owned by Woodford Racing, Pool Play has won 3 of 14 starts and $275,390. Last fall at Woodbine, he won the Grade 3 Durham Cup over 1 1/8 miles on the main track and placed in two other distance stakes through the fall. In his only start this year, Pool Play was eighth as the favorite in the Connally Handicap on turf at Sam Houston Race Park, a surface that Casse said the 5-year-old does not prefer.

"I don't feel comfortable running on turf," Casse said. "There was not a whole lot of pace in that race."

Pool Play started twice at Santa Anita last winter, when Casse had a small stable here. Pool Play's best result here was a third in an allowance race. At the time, Pool Play had yet to start in a stakes.

The Big Cap, which is run over 1 1/4 miles, will have a large field, and may even draw more entries than the maximum field of 14. If the race oversubscribes, weight assignments will determine which horses start.

The leading candidates are Loup Breton, who won the San Marcos Stakes on turf last month; Jeranimo and Misremembered, the first two finishers of the Strub Stakes on Feb. 13; Neko Bay, who won the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap last month; and St Trinians, the 5-year-old mare who won the Grade 2 Santa Maria Handicap on Feb. 13.