06/09/2008 11:00PM

Beaten favorite Champs Elysees was sick


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - When a good horse runs as badly as Champs Elysees ran Saturday in the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Handicap, usually there is an explanation. Favored at 4-5 in the 1 1/4-mile turf race at Hollywood Park, Champs Elysees failed to reach contention and finished sixth of seven runners. It did not take long to discover the reason why.

"I hate to make excuses, but he was sick," trainer Bobby Frankel said. A

postrace endoscopic exam revealed excessive mucus. Blood tests revealed a high white count. Frankel was both disappointed and relieved.

"At least something showed up, because he's a very sound horse," Frankel said.

Champs Elysees, who did not have a high temperature, is being treated with antibiotics, and Frankel expects him to bounce back quickly. He said two Grade 1 turf races next month are under consideration - the United Nations on July 5 at Monmouth, and the Man o' War on July 12 at Belmont Park.

Despite the loss, Champs Elysees is still considered one of the top turf horses in the country. He finished a troubled second in the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup in December, won the Grade 2 San Marcos in January at Santa Anita, finished third in the Santa Anita Handicap on the main track, and lost by a nose in the Grade 2 Jim Murray Handicap prior to the Whittingham.

Precious Kitten out of CashCall?

A minor setback could keep the Frankel-trained Precious Kitten out of the Grade 2 CashCall Mile on Julyo5. After Precious Kitten's powerful win May 26 in the Grade 1 Gamely, Frankel said a patch was re-applied to her quarter, which delayed her training. It is not serious, and Frankel said "I still have three weeks" until the CashCall, but the hitch in Precious Kitten's routine might prevent her from starting again at the spring-summer meet.

If she misses the $750,000 CashCall, Frankel said Precious Kitten would aim toward the Grade 1 Diana Handicap on July 26 at Saratoga, or try to win the Grade 1 John C. Mabee Handicap for the second straight year Aug. 3 at Del Mar.

Even without the top grass filly in the country, Frankel would be well-represented in the CashCall with Ventura, who he said will return to California after her first Grade 1 victory on Saturday in the Just a Game at Belmont Park. Ventura and Gamely runner-up Diamond Diva are the leading contenders for the CashCall.

Brother Derek resumes training hard

The quarter crack that knocked Brother Derek out of competition this spring finally is gone, and the 5-year-old Grade 1 winner has resumed serious training. He breezed three furlongs in 36.60 seconds on Saturday, his first workout since he ran second in his comeback race on April 20.

"It was the same quarter crack that opened up before, and we just let it grow out," trainer Dan Hendricks said. Brother Derek, whose last win was in the 2006 Santa Anita Derby, is not targeting a specific race, but Hendricks said he wants to start him before the end of the Hollywood meet July 13.

Shoemaker Mile winner Daytona will return June 28 in the Grade 2 American Handicap, Hendricks said. Daytona has won 6 of his last 7 starts, and with Shoemaker runner-up Ever a Friend on vacation until fall, Daytona will be heavily favored in the 1 1/8-mile American.

Though they did not have a horse in the Triple Crown, Hendricks and California breeder Marty Wygod had some indirect influence on the Belmont Stakes. Hendricks trained Torchera, the dam of Da' Tara, for Wygod during a 15-start career.

"I must have run her too short," Hendricks cracked.

Torchera won three races, all sprints, and finished off the board in her only two route races.

Wygod also bred Unbridled Girl, the dam of Belmont runner-up Denis of Cork. Unbridled Girl lost both career starts in 1991. Her dam was 1995 Fleet Treat Stakes winner Sound Wisdom, trained by Hendricks.

Heatseeker works for Gold Cup

Heatseeker, the top handicap horse in California, worked five furlongs Tuesday, his first work since a crushing 5 1/4-length victory May 28 in the Californian Stakes. Regular rider Rafael Bejarano was aboard for the work, timed in 59.40 seconds.

Jerry Hollendorfer trains Heatseeker, who on June 28 will be favored to win the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup. The field for the Gold Cup is expected to include Tiago, three-time Gold Cup winner Lava Man, and Grade 2 turf winner On the Acorn, who has never raced on anything other than grass.

Tough trip for Million Dollar Run

Million Dollar Run was a mile the best in the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on Sunday. Unfortunately, the 6-5 favorite encountered a nightmare trip and finished fourth in what was just her third career start and first around two turns. Trainer Marcelo Polanco was diplomatic in his assessment of the race.

"I don't want to say anything," Polanco said. "Everybody saw what happened."

Million Dollar Run was slow from the gate, stuck behind a wall of horses into the first turn, shuffled from fourth place to seventh place when she ran up on heels passing the three-quarters, lost excessive ground rallying five-wide into the lane, and still lost by only 2 1/4 lengths under jockey Joel Rosario.

Polanco said Million Dollar Run "came out of the race fine, with no problems. She had run only twice, and I thought she ran well," he said. "We'll just forget about it and go on to the next race."

But where? The decision facing Polanco and owner Jeff Nielsen is whether to switch Million Dollar Run to grass, or ship out of town. Polanco said he and Nielsen would discuss it later this week.

Two Step Salsa top fig in Affirmed

Dixie Chatter will be the 119-pound starting highweight Sunday in the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap. But if bettors gravitate to the top figure - don't they usually? - then sprinter Two Step Salsa (118) will be favored to win the 1 1/16-mile race.

Two Step Salsa won the seven-furlong Lazaro Barrera by three lengths with a 99 Beyer Speed Figure last out, and will be running long for the first time. Others expected in the Affirmed are Tres Borrachos (116), Bingham (114), and Exuma (113).