Wednesday, May 29, 1996

By Vince Bruun

If you run in the $1-million Hollywood Gold Cup, you get to face Cigar. If you run in the $700,000 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile, you get to face Fastness. It's like the asking the guy in the electric chair, "How would you like it, AC or DC?" Trainer Wally Dollase doesn't quite see it that way, however. In Helmsman, he's got the rare horse who can compete with the best either on dirt or turf. And in this case, Dollase has opted for dirt . . . and probably a date with Cigar in the Hollywood Gold Cup on June 30.

First things first, though, and that means a tuneup in Sunday's $250,000-added Californian against the likes of Siphon, Tinners Way, Mr Purple and Del Mar Dennis. "Helmsman is better on dirt than he is on turf," Dollase said. "But not by much. He loved the turf course at Del Mar, and I'm not going to say he won't run on turf again.

"The thing is, with Fastness, we wouldn't get the weight break we're going to get from Cigar. That is an important consideration, especially at a mile-and-a-quarter." Dollase said Helmsman is coming up to The Californian "beautifully." The 4-year-old son of El Gran Senor drilled five furlongs Tuesday in 1:00 4/5 and appears to be fully recovered from a displaced soft palate suffered in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 2.

"There aren't many better than (Helmsman)," Dollase said. "He's a wonderful racehorse and a pleasure to train."

In other developments: Owners Trudy McCaffery and John Toffan visited the winner's circle twice last weekend. Their promising 2-year-old filly A. P. Assay romped by six lengths in a maiden special weight event and the comebacking Gastown, who had never run on turf, led gate to wire in posting a $36 upset in a $48,000 allowance on the lawn. Sunday, the Vancouver, B. C., natives will be represented in The Californian by multiple stakes winner Del Mar Dennis. The 6-year-old Dixieland Band gelding is only $8,025 short of $1-million in career earnings. Trainer Paco Gonzalez surveyed the probable five-horse field and said one thing is obvious: Del Mar Dennis and Siphon will be the horses to catch. "It depends where we draw," Gonzalez said when asked what instructions he will give Alex Solis in the paddock. "We will be close to Siphon, I'm sure, but I don't know if we'll have the lead. (Del Mar Dennis) can go either way, on the lead or just off of it."

Del Mar Dennis is scheduled to work four furlongs Thursday with the trainer's brother, Sal Gonzalez Sr., in the irons. Alex Campbell's Santa Anita Handicap winner Mr Purple worked one mile Tuesday in 1:39 1/5, handily, on a fast main track. And Mervyn Leroy Handicap winner Siphon is scheduled to blow out Friday.

Probables for the 43rd running of The Californian, 1 1/8 miles (to be run under allowance stakes conditions): Mr Purple, Corey Nakatani, 122; Helmsman, Chris McCarron, 122; Del Mar Dennis, Alex Solis, 118; Siphon, Kent Desormeaux, 118, and Tinners Way, Eddie Delahoussaye, 116. Possible: Score Quick, no rider, 116.

Saturday's $250,000-guaranteed Massachusetts Handicap will be simulcast at Hollywood Park. The 1 1/8-mile Mass 'Cap will feature Cigar in his final race prior to his title defense of the $1-million Hollywood Gold Cup on Sunday, June 30. Post time for the Massachusetts Handicap is 1:40 p.m.

Chris McCarron will remain in California to ride Tiger Talk, the expected favorite, for trainer Ron Ellis in Saturday's $100,000-added Harry Henson Stakes for 3-year-olds at Hollywood Park.

Mike Smith, meanwhile, has accepted the call on Exotic Wood -- also a regular McCarron mount -- in Saturday's $100,000-added Genuine Risk Handicap (Gr. II) for fillies and mares at Belmont Park. Exotic Wood shipped to New York Wednesday morning. As for Ellis, he can't be in two places at once and said he planned to be at Belmont Park Saturday to discuss Exotic Wood face-to-face with Smith. "Chris (McCarron) knows Tiger Talk," Ellis said. "I think it's more important for me to be with the guy who hasn't ridden the horse." Tiger Talk completed his preparation for the Henson Wednesday, drilling a half-mile in :49. In other developments:

Trainer Barry Abrams entered Slews Royal Son against older horses in Friday's $65,000-added Fifty Six Ina Row Handicap, but said he might also enter the Slew's Royalty Colt Thursday morning, when entries are taken for the Henson, and study both races before deciding which way to go. Probables for the 45th running of the $100,000-added Harry Henson Stakes,7 1/2 furlongs: Afleetaffair, Corey Nakatani; Argonnier, no rider; Hesabull, Eddie Delahoussaye; Regal Rhythm, Corey Black, and Tiger Talk, Chris McCarron. Possible: Slews Royal Son, Brice Blanc, and Fastasaspeednbulit, no rider.

Jockey G. F. Almeida, out of action since January, hopes to resume riding on Wednesday, June 12, according to agent Vince DeGregory. Almeida is tentatively scheduled to begin riding a pony at trainer Gary Lewis' Santa Anita barn Friday, and if all goes well Almeida will begin working horses next week. Almeida suffered two broken legs in a Jan. 20 spill at Santa Anita aboard Rue Du Fraise on the downhill turf course. The 40-year-old jockey finished eighth at both the 1995 Oak Tree and 1995 Hollywood Autumn meetings.

FINISH LINES: Gary Stevens, who hasn't ridden since Friday because of family matters, will ride Serena's Song in Saturday's $150,000-added Fleur de Lis Handicap (Gr. III) at Churchill Downs. Agent Ron Anderson said Stevens hopes to resume riding at Hollywood Park next Wednesday . . . Corey Nakatani's victory aboard Sandpit in Monday's $500,000 Hollywood Turf Handicap was the jockey's 50th stakes win at Hollywood Park . . . Cat's Cradle, a late scratch from Saturday's Hawthorne Handicap, is entered against the boys in Friday night's $65,000-added Fifty Six Ina Row Handicap for Cal-breds at seven furlongs . . . Megan's Interco was assigned highweight of 122 pounds for the Fifty Six Ina Row, but trainer Jenine Sahadi said the 7-year-old gelding's comeback has been put on hold. "It's the same old problem with the quarter-crack," she said. "It's day-to-day with him." . . . Nonproductiveasset worked a half-mile in :51 Wednesday and Wally Dollase said the 6-year-old is probable for the $700,000 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile on June 16 . . . World record-holder Lucky Forever breezed a half-mile Tuesday in :49 2/5 at Santa Anita with Victor Espinoza up and is nearing a comeback for trainer Gary Lewis . . . Trainer Richard Matlow celebrated his 44th birthday Tuesday.

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