Two horses that have enjoyed some of their finest moments over the main track at Churchill Downs worked at the track Friday in preparation for their respective bids for next week’s first running of the $175,000-added Homecoming Classic, the last of eight stakes races conducted during the September meet.
William S. Farish Jr.’s Pool Play, winner of the 2011 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI), and Robert and Lawanna Low’s Agent Di Nozzo, an impressive allowance winner over the stakes-winning Taptowne in a May 31 allowance race at the track, each worked five furlongs Friday. The Homecoming Classic, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up, is set for the “Downs After Dark” program on Saturday, Sept.. 28.
Trainer Mark Casse’s Pool Play zipped five furlongs in 1:01, which tied as the fourth fastest of 27 works at the distance. The eight-year-old son of Silver Deputy will be looking to snap a seven-race losing stretch when he faces a tough field in the Homecoming Classic field headed by Janis R. Whitham’s reigning Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Fort Larned, who was a romping winner of the 2013 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) at Churchill Downs.
Agent Di Nozzo also worked five-eighths in 1:01 under the guidance of Shaun Bridgmohan, who will have the Homecoming Classic mount aboard the 4-year-old Ghostzapper gelding for trainer Steve Margolis.
“He had a bullet work last week and came back and worked really good this week,” said Norman Casse, the trainer’s son and the assistant who oversees the stable’s Churchill Downs division. “We’re going to give him a chance, although the race is coming up a lot tougher than we were expecting it to. He’s back training the way he was when he was really on top of his game.”
Pool Play’s last victory was a triumph last October in the Hawthorne Gold Cup (GII). He comes into the race off a third-place run over a muddy track in the Greenwood Cup (GIII) at Philadelphia’s Parx. The veteran has made 39 career starts with a record of 7-7-7 and earnings of $1,311,459.
Miguel Mena will ride Pool Play in the Homecoming Classic.
“We’re excited about the opportunity,” Margolis said. “We know it’s a tough race, but we’re happy with our horse.”
Agent Di Nozzo is coming off a disappointing fifth-place finish behind Wilcox Inn as the favorite in the Washington Park Handicap (GIII), which was run over the synthetic Polytrack surface at Arlington Park. Prior to that effort Agent Di Nozzo had won back-to-back outings over dirt in the Golden Bear Stakes at Indiana Downs and his allowance victory at Churchill Downs.
"He definitely didn’t handle that Polytrack, but he’s had two good races at Churchill this spring,” Margolis said. “I think the extra distance will be good for us. Shaun really liked the way he went this morning. He went really good.”
Along with his win in the Golden Bear, Agent Di Nozzo also won the Borgata Stakes at Louisiana Downs. He has a career record of 7-2-2 in 15 races and has earned $269,842.
Others considered possible for the Homecoming Classic include Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Golden Ticket, the Ken McPeek trainee who was runner-up to Fort Larned in the Stephen Foster and dead-heat winner of the 2012 Travers (GI); the Charlie LoPresti-trained duo of Mort Fink’s homebred Successful Dan, who was disqualified from first to third in the 2011 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) and runner-up to Cross Traffic in the Whitney, and the Estate of Elaine Klein, Richard and Bertram Klein Windswept, a recent allowance winner at Saratoga; and Zayat Stable LLC’s Prayer for Relief, a $1.5 million career-earner and winner of the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker (GIII) and Remington Park Governor’s Cup for trainer Steve Asmussen.
STEWART WATCHES DERBY RUNNER-UP GOLDEN SOUL AFTER “BAD STEP” IN TURF DEBUT – Trainer Dallas Stewart gave a cautious “thumbs up” Friday on the condition of Charles Fipke’s homebred Golden Soul, runner-up to Orb in 2012 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), following an eventful journey in an allowance race that served as his debut on turf Wednesday at Kentucky Downs in Franklin, Ky.
The son of Perfect Soul finished ninth as the favorite in a field of 12 in the 1 ½-mile race. While the official chart of the race notes only that Golden Soul “tired,” Stewart said his horse encountered some trouble during the race.
“He actually a bad step in the race in mid-turn on the final turn,” Stewart said. “He was pretty sore in his pastern and his foot. We iced him until about one o’clock in morning (after the race) and got him back the next morning and iced him. We’ve iced him two or three times today.
“I don’t think there’s anything major, but I think he might have stepped in a hole or something. Thank God it looks he’s okay right now.”
Stewart will not consider any future plans for Golden Soul until he’s sure the colt has made it through this mishap. Golden Soul has a career record of 1-3-0 in 10 races with earnings of $533,034.
Along with continued improvement by Golden Soul following his scare, Stewart will be looking for additional reasons to celebrate in the near-term from a pair of fillies in his barn. Donarra Thoroughbreds LLC’s Irish Lute, a contender in Saturday’s 30th running of Churchill Downs’ Dogwood (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies, and Valene Farm’s Designer Legs, the Louisiana-bred winner of the Adirondack (GII) at Saratoga have Stewart thinking big.
Irish Lute is the 9-2 third-choice in the one-mile Dogwood and will seek to rebound from a sixth-place finish behind Sweet Lulu in the Test (I) at Saratoga. She was third over that New York track behind Lighthouse Bay in her previous start in the Prioress (GI).
“She was solid at Saratoga,” Stewart said. “In her last race she reared up in the gate and it kind of rattled her a little bit and took her off her game a touch.”
The daughter of hot sire Midnight Lute is seeking her first stakes victory and her third win in six races at Churchill Downs. Her top career effort was third-place run in the Eight Belles (GIII) over the Louisville track on Kentucky Derby Day.
“She’s been solid all year and she loves this track,” Stewart said. “As long as it’s dry, I think she’ll have a fair shake.”
Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Irish Lute, who has a career record of 2-3-2 in 10 races.
Designer Legs is being pointed toward the Oct. 4 Alcibiades (GI) at Keeneland. She breezed at Churchill Downs on Thursday, covering four furlongs in :48.60 over a fast track.
BARN TALK: John C. Oxley’s Uncaptured, winner of the 2012 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII), the recent Prince of Wales at Fort Erie and runner-up in the Matt Winn (GIII), zipped five furlongs in 1:00 Friday workout at Churchill Downs. The work was the fastest of 27 at the distance. Assistant Norman Casse said Uncaptured is being pointed to the Indiana Derby (GII) … Three of the four fillies crossed entered in Churchill Downs’ Dogwood Stakes and Saturday’s $400,000 Charles Town Oaks. Dogwood morning-line favorite So Many Ways will scratch from the Dogwood and run at the West Virginia track, but representatives of Guadalupe High, Fusaichiswonderful and also-eligible Thetaloveandmine have told Churchill Downs officials they will compete at the Louisville track on Saturday. … Early Times Mint Julep (GIII) winner Miz Ida will run next in Keeneland’s $400,000 First Lady (GI) on Oct. 5, according to trainer Steve Margolis. … Also working this week for Margolis was Wine Princess, the Locust Grover runner-up who breezed four furlongs in :49.40 on Thursday.