10/04/2009 11:00PM

Pool Play steps up with wide rally in Durham


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Pool Play looked to be behind the eight ball, coming off a first-level allowance score and facing some battle-tested stakes competitors in Sunday's .

But taking his cue from rider Patrick Husbands, Pool Play launched a five-wide bid on the far turn that carried him to a one-length score in the 1 1/8-mile Durham Cup for 3-year-olds and up.

"I thought he really needed his last race," said trainer Mark Casse, who had sent out Pool Play to win over 1 1/8 miles here Aug. 29 in his first outing in almost five months. "But he was so impressive - he got stopped and came again.

"At a mile and sixteenth, he's just another horse. But the farther he goes, the better he likes it."

Pool Play, an Ontario-bred 4-year-old, definitely was cut out to be a good horse and sold for $625,000 at the 2006 Keeneland yearling sale.

"He was magnificent to look at," Casse said. "He would have been a Queen's Plate horse, but he cracked his hind pastern."

Pool Play made it to the races last July and won his maiden when stretching out to 1 1/8 miles for his fourth start.

After winding up his campaign with a couple of decent first-level allowance efforts here, Pool Play was entered in the November sale at Keeneland and was purchased by Bill Farish Jr. for $180,000.

Starting out this year as a member of Casse's California contingent, Pool Play turned in two more respectable first-level allowance efforts without taking it to the next level.

"He ran okay in California, but when I took him to Keeneland, he just wasn't himself," said Casse, who had watched Pool Play finish sixth as the favorite in a first-level allowance race there April 3. "He just wasn't himself, and we found out he had a little stress fracture in a splint bone. That's why he had that time off.

"I thought he was a really nice horse, who would get better."

Husbands wins 2,000th race

Husbands and Casse were back in the winner's circle with Grazettes Landing here in Sunday's 10th and final race to celebrate the jockey's 2,000th career victory.

After being an almost inseparable team through recent campaigns, Casse and Husbands have been going more and more their separate ways this year for undisclosed reasons.

Their collaboration for the milestone victory was fitting, however, and marked their 528th success in 2,742 starts.

Meanwhile, the 36-year-old Husbands is well on his way to his third consecutive riding title here with 132 victories through Sunday's program. Pool Play was his meet-leading 16th stakes winner.

Casse leads the trainer standings with 50 winners, including 33 ridden by Husbands.

Husbands had notched his 15th stakes win of the meeting Saturday when riding Saskawea for the first time in the $115,250 Avowal.

Saskawea, a 5-year-old homebred who races for Les Pereira and is trained by Steve Attard, won the Avowal for the second time in as many runnings of the seven-furlong overnight stakes for fillies and mares. What made the feat unusual is that the inaugural Avowal was on turf but this year's renewal was switched to the main track following recent rains.

"I didn't mind seeing it taken off," Attard said. "I thought the race was a little tougher on the turf."

Saskawea had not exactly distinguished herself when making her last start on Polytrack in the Grade 3 Seaway over seven furlongs as she finished last of eight.

Attard accepted the blame, saying he had instructed jockey Jono Jones to rate Saskawea and she had strenuously objected to the tactics.

"After that last debacle, I just said to Patrick 'Do what you want, man,' " Attard said.

Saskawea was much more tractable this time as she settled nicely in third and took charge turning for home en route to a 1 3/4-length victory.

"She looked really comfortable doing it," Attard said. "She was sitting there; it looked like he wasn't fighting with her. It was one of the best races I've seen her run in a long time."

Saskawea has been entered in the November sale at Keeneland, but Attard, who has guided her to a career record of 7-8-2 for earnings of $822,161 from 24 starts, is hoping her run isn't over yet.

Supplement pays off for Attfield

Soul of Nataka was an appropriate winner of Sunday's $151,200 Carotene for Roger Attfield, who trained the champion mare for whom the race is named.

A homebred who races for owner Charles Fipke, Soul of Nataka had won her maiden over 1 1/4 miles of turf here Sept. 12.

"She wants to run long on the turf and finally got to do it," Attfield said. "I was very confident in her going into that race."

Attfield originally had not nominated Soul of Nataka to the Carotene but began reconsidering and decided to ante up the $3,000 supplementary fee.

"I thought it might be a little short for her," Attfield said. "But she'd won her last race so nicely and came out of it well."

That fear was unfounded as Soul of Nataka got up in the last jump under rider Richard Dos Ramos to get the bob over First Circle, trained by former Attfield assistant Mike Keogh.

Oistins rewards trainer's patience

Shortly after Oistins's win here in the Aug. 2 Nandi, trainer Terry Jordan stated his intention of putting her on hold until the next stakes race for Ontario-sired 2-year-old fillies.

That plan paid dividends last Saturday when Oistins returned for a front-running win under regular rider Jim McAleney in the $126,200 Victorian Queen at the same six-furlong distance.

"I'd just wanted to try and save her and get her right for this race," said Jordan, who was sending out his second stakes winner of the week after capturing last Wednesday's King Corrie with Hollywood Hit.

Oistins now has won 3 of 4 starts and $192,600 for owner James Redekop. She will wind up her season on that note as she already has gone to the nearby farm of trainer Steve Owens and is scheduled to head to Florida at the end of January to prepare for her 3-year-old campaign.

"We'll just let her grow a little bit more," Jordan said. "She's growing outwards, instead of upwards. She's still a pretty small filly."