06/30/2012 12:24PM

Woodbine: Pool Play returns from one-year layoff in Ontario Jockey Club

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Pool Play hasn't raced since winning the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap last June at Churchill.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Pool Play, dropping from a Grade 1 stakes into an overnight stakes for Ontario-breds, is the class of Monday’s Ontario Jockey Club at seven furlongs on the turf course. The kicker is that Pool Play has not started since that Grade 1 success, which came in the 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 18, 2011.

Pool Play emerged from the Foster with an unspecified injury, and trainer Mark Casse put out some feelers as to the 7-year-old horse’s marketability as a stallion. When no interest materialized, Pool Play was put back in training, and he is returning Monday at a distance and over a surface that have not yielded his best results.

“He likes the turf okay,” said Casse, who watched the 7-year-old Pool Play perform competitively in three graded turf stakes earlier last season. “I’m worried that seven furlongs is a little too short for him, but I’m just happy that he’s been doing well.You have to start somewhere, and this is the first step.”

Patrick Husbands has the mount on Pool Play, who like the other five entrants has never won on turf.

Leading the opposition is Artic Fern, who will be returning to action just eight days after finishing eighth in the Grade 2 Highlander at six furlongs on the turf.

“I don’t usually do it, but this came up a small field,” trainer Mike Keogh said. “He came out of the race really, really good and really sharp, so that’s why I stuck him back in.”

Prior to the Highlander, Artic Fern had finished third here in the Grade 2 Connaught Cup over the distance and surface of the Ontario Jockey Club.

Artic Fern,a 5-year-old homebred gelding who races for Gustav Schickedanz, became a stakes winner here last September in the King Corrie over six furlongs of Polytrack.

Tylez Pizarro will ride Artic Fern for the first time.

Stunning Stag, an 8-year-old gelding, has won three main-track stakes, but is winless in four tries on turf.

In his last start, competing under third-level allowance terms in an optional $80,000 claiming race, Stunning Stag broke in the air but stalked the pace and was leading into the final furlong before faltering to finish fourth over one mile of turf, beaten 2 1/2 lengths.

Regular rider Gerry Olguin will be in the irons on Stunning Stag, who is trained by Sid Attard.

Completing the field are Bear’s Chill, Arrow’s Conquest, and Quick Code, who was supplemented at a cost of $2,000.