HELMSMAN RETURNS SUNDAY IN GRADE III INGLEWOOD HANDICAP
Multiple graded stakes winner Helmsman worked five furlongs in :59 4/5, handily, Wednesday under Chris McCarron and trainer Wally Dollase indicated the El Gran Senor colt will run in Sunday's $125,000-added Inglewood Handicap on the turf.
Helmsman, winner of the Grade I Strub Stakes and the Grade II San Fernando Stakes this winter at Santa Anita, hasn't raced since displacing his soft palate while finishing fifth in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 2.
Helmsman was given a three-week freshening following the mishap -- Dollase said it occurred when Luthier Fever slammed into Helmsman on the final turn -- but said the colt was due for a vacation anyway.
"This horse is one of those special ones who can go on either turf or dirt," Dollase said. "He's training well, I got his last quarter today in :11 4/5, and (the Inglewood) is a good place to start."
Dollase added that Helmsman will race with "blinkers off" in the Inglewood. "Chris (McCarron) thinks it's a good idea to take 'em off," Dollase said. "He's been wanting to get on with it a little too much in his races, and hopefully this will get him to relax."
NAKATANI TO RIDE FASTNESS, STEVENS TO STICK WITH TYCHONIC
Trainer Jenine Sahadi has named Corey Nakatani to ride 122-pound highweight Fastness in Sunday's Inglewood Handicap, meaning Gary Stevens will remain with the Bobby Frankel-trained Tychonic.
"I wasn't sure who Gary was going to ride and I wanted a commitment for my horse," Sahadi said of her decision to name Nakatani on Fastness.
Although Nakatani has never ridden Fastness in a race, he's no stranger to the gray Irish-bred. With Stevens frequently out-of-town for stakes engagements, Nakatani has frequently worked the 1995 Breeders' Cup Mile runner-up, including a seven-furlong drill Monday in 1:24 3/5.
In fact, Nakatani would have been the regular rider last year had he not traveled north to ride Raintrap on June 24. That was the same day Fastness made his 1995 debut with a 2 3/4-length victory in a $54,000 allowance event at Hollywood. Stevens was aboard for that victory and subsequent triumphs in the Grade I Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar and the Grade II Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park.
Probables for the 56th running of the Grade III Inglewood Handicap, to be run at 1 1/16 miles on turf: Fastness, Corey Nakatani, 122; Helmsman, Chris McCarron, 120; Tychonic, Gary Stevens, 120; Dernier Empereur, Eddie Delahoussaye, 117; College Town, no rider, 113, and Lord Shirldor, Brice Blanc, 110.
DR. SARDONICA TO MAKE HOUSE CALL IN WILL ROGERS HANDICAP
The same man who brought you Jumron in 1995 -- Charles W. Dunn of Vancouver, Wash. -- will ship south with another horse for Saturday's $100,000-added Will Rogers Handicap on the turf.
Dr. Sardonica, a son of Rahy bred by Windfields Farm in Ontario, Canada, will van down from Golden Gate Fields for the one-mile race for 3-year-olds. Trainer Dan Markle has secured the services of Chris Antley aboard Dr. Sardonica.
Dr. Sardonica will take a two-race winning streak into the Will Rogers. He broke his maiden by 5 1/2 lengths on April 13, and then in his first try around two turns he crushed allowance foes by six lengths while stopping the clock in 1:42 3/5 for 1 1/16 miles.
In other developments:
Sandtrap, owner of back-to-back stakes wins and the 119-pound highweight, drilled a half-mile Tuesday in :49 4/5 for trainer Ben Cecil.
Early probables for the 56th running of the Will Rogers Handicap: Sandtrap, Eddie Delahoussaye, 119; Let Bob Do It, Kent Desormeaux, 118; Benton Creek, Alex Solis, 116; Zanferrier, Chris McCarron, 116; Dr. Sardonica, Chris Antley, 114; Nightcapper, Rene Douglas, 114; Jamboree John, Corey Nakatani, 114; Men's Exclusive, Laffit Pincay Jr., 113, The Bedouin, Matt Garcia, 111.
Possible: Defleet, no rider, 114, and Hectic, no rider, 113.
BELMONT STAKES OR CINEMA HANDICAP NEXT STOP FOR ALYROB
Four Star Stable's Alyrob returned to Wally Dollase's barn Tuesday and the trainer said the Alysheba colt will make his next start on June 8 -- either in the $500,000 Belmont Stakes (Gr. I) in New York or the $125,000 Cinema Handicap (Gr. III) at Hollywood Park on the turf.
Dollase said Alyrob's eighth-place Derby finish might have been due in part to the colt's uncertain status. Because he wasn't sure Alyrob would get into the race, Dollase breezed Alyrob just once at Churchill Downs, a five-furlong drill four days prior to the race.
"Corey (Nakatani) said the horse was moving beautifully on the turn, and then he just came up short in the stretch," Dollase said. "He came out of the race in good order, and Corey definitely wants to ride him back."
HOW ABOUT THOSE QUARTERHORSE GUYS!
What do Grindstone and Cavonnier have in common, aside from hooking up in one of the closest Kentucky Derby finishes in history?
Both are in the hands of ex-quarterhorse trainers: D. Wayne Lukas, conditioner of Grindstone, and Bob Baffert, trainer of Cavonnier, both were leading quarterhorse trainers at Los Alamitos before switching to thoroughbreds.
That fact didn't go unnoticed on Caesar Dominguez, who for years was one of the leading trainers at Los Alamitos before himself switching to thoroughbrds in 1989.
"I think a good horseman is a good horseman, no matter which breed you're training," said the 46-year-old Dominguez. "And in the case of quarterhorses, nowadays 90 percent of the horses are either by a thoroughbred sire or out of a thoroughbred mare. So there really isn't as big a difference, both physically and mentally, as people might think.
"With thoroughbreds, you just train 'em farther and put more miles on 'em," he added. "But my belief has always been, if you can train a quarterhorse, you can train a thoroughbred."
Dominguez, whose powerful quarterhorse outfit won more than 1,200 races and 100 stakes -- including seven Grade I events with Takin on the Cash -- was asked when we might expect to see him on the Triple Crown trail.
"We go to Kentucky every year to buy babies," he said. "My clients don't spend as much as some of the other guys . . . but you always hope that the horse you just bought will someday win the big one. It keeps you going."
Dominguez, who won thoroughbred training titles at Fairplex Park in 1991 and 1992, already has won one Derby, the 1992 Pomona Derby, with Prospect For Four.
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