Sunday, June 23, 1996

By Mark Midland

With one of the strongest barns in Southern California, it is hard to believe trainer Wally Dollase has never won a $1-million race. When Dollase saddles Helmsman in next Sunday's Hollywood Gold Cup, it will mark the third time this spring Dollase has saddled one of the favorites in a $1-million race.

Helmsman captured the $500,000 Strub Stakes this winter, but only managed a fifth-place finish as the favorite in the $1-million Santa Anita Handicap, and Alyrob finished second before having his number taken down in the $1-million Santa Anita Derby.

"With Itsallgreektome, I finished second in a $2-million race and second for $1 million once," said Dollase, who is used to disappointment in $1-million races. "Then in the Arlington Million with Algenib, I finished second by a head. And I've finished second by a neck and a nose for a million."

With horses like Helmsman, Windsharp, Jewel Princess and Alyrob in his barn, it shouldn't be long before Dollase finds that elusive $1-million victory. But he hopes to break into the million-dollar club sooner than later.

"I think I'm jinxed because I can't do it," he said. "I would like to break that plateau. I'm due."

The Gold Cup brings together seven Graded/Group I winners, making the classy field difficult to separate.

"They are all very evenly matched, and Geri is the mystery horse," he said. "I can't see anyone running off and winning by five. They've all proven they can run a mile-and-a-quarter except for Siphon, and I don't think he'll have any trouble going on."

Dollase knows there are no easy spots for $1 million, and the Hollywood Gold Cup is no exception, turning into the deepest handicap race of the summer.

"These are some of the best horses in the country," he said. "It would have to be one of the toughest races this year."

In other developments:

Geri breezed a bullet seven furlongs in 1:26 over a fast main track Sunday morning at Belmont Park. The Oaklawn Handicap winner is due to arrive Wednesday, on the same flight with Sandpit and Northern Spur.

Mr Purple is scheduled to have his final Hollywood Gold Cup workout Monday morning under exercise rider Luis Ortega.

Probables for the 57th running of the Hollywood Gold Cup to be run at 1 1/4 miles on the main track, second leg in the MGM Grand Classic Crown: Dare And Go, Alex Solis; Helmsman, Chris McCarron; Mr Purple,* no rider; Siphon, David Flores; Soul Of The Matter, Corey Nakatani; Tinners Way, Eddie Delahoussaye, and Geri, Jerry Bailey.

* Eligible for the $2-million MGM Grand Classic Crown bonus.

Mr Purple's upset victory for Alex G. Campbell in the Santa Anita Handicap leaves him one-third of the way to the $2-million MGM Classic Crown Bonus. The bonus, which awards a horse sweeping the $1-million Santa Anita Handicap, the $1-million Hollywood Gold Cup and the $1-million Pacific Classic, was originally proposed by the Thoroughbred Owners of California as an incentive for the series.

In addition to the $2-million bonus, MGM Grand Hotel/Casino of Las Vegas will also pay a $500,000 Participation Bonus, which will be distributed among the top point earners, and a $100,000 jockey bonus for a sweep of all three races on the same horse. To be eligible for the bonus, a horse must start in all three races.

Participation Bonus point distribution after the first leg of the MGM Grand Classic Crown: Mr Purple, 10 (Santa Anita Handicap winner and eligible for the $2-million bonus); Luthier Fever, 7; Just Java, 5; Helmsman, 3, and Cezind, 1.

Trainer Barry Abrams has never been afraid to run his horses when they're doing well, so it will be no surprise to see him run Slews Royal Son, who finished second in Saturday's Playa Del Rey, in next Sunday's Affirmed Stakes off a one-week rest.

"I ran him three times in 12 days, so bringing him back in a week is no problem," said Abrams, who has earned $150,810 in ten starts with the 3-year-old son of Slew's Royalty since claiming him for $32,000 on Dec. 29.

"I asked if I could enter for both races (the Affirmed and Triple Bend) and run in both," joked Abrams, who noted he once ran his standardbred star Guts three times in one day.

Slews Royal Son has sprinted in his last five starts, but has a win and a second in his only two-turn efforts.

"He was second to Semoran in his first lifetime start around two turns, and the horse that finished third was Halo Sunshine," he said.

Probables for the $100,000 Affirmed Stakes, to be run at 1 1/16 miles on the main track: Hesabull, Eddie Delahoussaye; Matty G, Alex Solis; Semoran, Corey Nakatani; Slews Royal Son, Brice Blanc.

Possible: Defleet, no rider; Pugnacious, no rider; Super Mining, no rider.

Trainer Bob Baffert is well-known for his hard-knocking old geldings, and he is considering giving 8-year-old Letthebighossroll another shot at the big time. The veteran sprinter has banked over $689,000 in his career, and finished a competitive second in each of his 1996 starts.

"There's a good possibility that we'll run," Baffert said. "We have to work him one more time, and if they throw in a free saddletowel and webbing than we'll run."

Probables for next Sunday's $200,000 Triple Bend Handicap, to be run at seven furlongs on the main track: Afternoon Deelites, Corey Nakatani; Comininalittlehot, Jerry Bailey; Letthebighossroll, no rider; Paying Dues, Chris Antley; Powis Castle, Laffit Pincay; Score Quick, Goncalino Alameida

Possible: Bold Capital, no rider; The Exeter Man, Eddie Delahoussaye.

Same race, same post, same result. Sandpit made it look easy with his second straight victory in the $500,000 Caesars International on Saturday.

"It was very similar to last year, "assistant trainer Gary Mandella said. "But we could have used more pace, it was more of a nail-biter this year."

With the victory Sandpit became the first back-to-back winner of the race since Manila in 1986 and 1987, when the contest was known as the United Nations Handicap.

"Very few horses are able to come back and win a prestigious race like that two years in a row," he said.

For the second year in a row, Sandpit can earn the Caesars Palace Las Vegas and Caesars World Atlantic City bonus for sweeping the Caesars International and the $700,000 Caesars Palace Turf Championship on July 21 at Hollywood Park.

The sweep is good for a $280,000 bonus and a total paycheck of $1 million. Sandpit earned $750,000 for sweeping the series last year.

FINISH LINES: Assistant trainer Gary Mandella indicated Brice Blanc will ride Atticus in the $175,000 Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap (Gr. III) at Churchill Downs, where he will take on Petit Poucet . . .Exotic Wood drilled seven furlongs in 1:26 2/5 Sunday morning in preparation for the July 4 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap (Gr. II) at Monmouth Park. The Rahy filly will make her initial two-turn start in the race . . . Trainer Bob Baffert confirmed Del Mar Debutante and Sorrento stakes winner Batroyale will make her 3-year-old debut in Saturday's $100,000-added Valkyr Handicap at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf with David Flores up. . . Some distaffers readying for the Valkyr included Salsa Dancer working a half-mile in :46 3/5, Airistar going four furlongs in :48 4/5 on the turf, and Flying In The Lane working four furlongs in :48 2/5 over the grass . . . Jockey Chris Antley has ridden nine winners from his last 31 mounts . . .Gold And Steel worked six furlongs in 1:11 3/5 readying for the $100,000 American Handicap on July 4 . . .Notable turf works Sunday morning: River Flyer, 1:41 4/5; Talloires, 1:15 1/5; Didina, 1:27 2/5.

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