03/24/2004 12:00AM

Beware of longshot Vinemeister


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Vinemeister will be one of the outsiders in Saturday's $100,000 Artax Handicap. But after blowing out three furlongs in 34.80 seconds at Gulfstream Park on Wednesday it might be wise not to take the graded stakes winner too lightly in the seven-furlong dash.

Vinemeister registered the most important victory of his career, the Grade 3 Salvator Mile, around two turns, but trainer Alan Seewald plans to keep his horse in sprints this season.

"I think his breeding is finally starting to come out, so I'm going to keep him sprinting this year," trainer Alan Seewald explained. "He's by Williamstown, who still owns the one-mile record [1:32.79] at Belmont Park. I've been training him differently since we got down here for the winter, more like a closing sprinter."

Even Monday's fast work was designed to get Vinemeister to come running at the end of the Artax.

"I had the boy set him down for the last part of it this morning, and I clocked his final quarter in 22.20," said Seewald.

Vinemeister has won once in three tries this meeting, rallying from last to upset a high-priced optional claiming and allowance race by 2 1/4 widening lengths on Feb. 16. He finished a well-beaten third behind Strong Hope in the fastest six-furlong race of the meet in his last start on March 10.

"I'm just hoping he gets some pace to run at Saturday," said Seewald who will again turn the reins over to Jose Velez Jr.

A field of eight to 10 is shaping up for the Artax, with Gygistar likely to go off as the slight favorite over a group that could also include Wacky For Love, Pass Rush, Jersey Giant, Speightstown, Dancing Guy, Dubai Sheikh, and Fire and Glory.

Record pick six carryover yields $28K payoff

The largest pick six carryover and total pick six pool in Gulfstream Park history was taken down by 26 fans on Wednesday, each winning ticket worth $28,416.80. In addition 722 tickets with five out of six winners returned $195.40.

The winning combination included two favorites, Royal Duke in the fourth race and True Love's Secret in the finale. Had either of two longshots, Twice as Royal or Albert and Baby, won the last race, the pool would have carried over for another day.

The record pick six payoff at Gulfstream is $309,788.40, won by two bettors on Jan. 17, 2001.

A total of $705,682 was wagered on Wednesday in the picks six. Added to the $315,431 that was carried over from the previous card, it made for a record pick six pool.

Total combined handle for Thursday's nine-race program was $6,580,820, up more than $1.4 million from the corresponding card the previous week.

Key Deputy not likely for Artax

One of the more promising sprinters nominated to the Artax, Key Deputy, is not likely to run, according to trainer Bill Mott.

Key Deputy has won his last three starts and four of his last five, his only setback during that streak coming at the hands of Alke, who will be one of the top U.S. representatives in Saturday's $2 million Golden Shaheen in Dubai. Key Deputy turned in one of the best sprint performances of the meet when he dueled through a 43.81-second opening half-mile en route to a three-length optional claiming and allowance victory on March 6. His final time of 1:21.81 earned the son of Deputy Minister a Beyer Speed Figure of 102, just one point beneath his career best of 103 posted winning his maiden last summer at Saratoga.

"I'd really like to run him in there, but if I did I'd be worried he'd be coming back a bit too quick," Mott said by phone from Payson Park on Wednesday. "That was kind of a hard race he had the other day and I'd rather not be pushing him to do it. I just wish I had a little more time because I like the competition here better than the alternatives if I take him out of town."

Wolfson's work goes on

Life went on at trainer Marty Wolfson's barn on Wednesday, one day after losing his multiple graded stakes winner Wynn Dot Comma, who was euthanized after breaking down during a routine morning gallop.

Wolfson worked his two other 3-year-old stakes runners, Zakocity and Sir Oscar, Wednesday morning at Calder. Both horses went a half mile, Zakocity in 49.80 seconds and Sir Oscar in 50.80.

Zakocity, a wide-running fourth in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby, is scheduled to make his next start a week from Saturday in the $250,000 Aventura Stakes. Sir Oscar, who was found to have partial paralysis on one side of his throat following his eighth-place finish in the Florida Derby, will turn back to seven furlongs for his next start, in Tampa's $75,000 Padua Sophomore Sprint on April 4.

Purse cuts for three stakes

The purses of three upcoming stakes, the Hallandale Beach, Yankee Affair, and Bob Slater, will be trimmed to allow overnight purses to be maintained at their current levels through the end of the meet on April 25.

The Hallandale Beach on April 10 will be reduced from $75,000 to $60,000, while both the Yankee Affair on April 11 and Bob Slater on April 17 have been slashed from $65,000 to $50,000 apiece.

"Based on the current level of daily entries we are making small adjustments in the three stakes purse to ensure our overnight purses will be maintained," said Gulfstream president and general manager Scott Savin.

Savin said both on track and in-state handles are up this winter compared to the corresponding dates in 2003. He said off track numbers are down "less than double-digits" but have made a major resurgence since Florida Derby Day.

"We showed a 25 percent increase this year on derby day and a 25 percent increase on last Friday's twilight card compared to the corresponding Friday in 2003," said Savin.

* David Rovine is no longer employed at Gulfstream as director of marketing. "The decision to terminate Mr. Rovine was based on consolidation and re-organization within the company," said Savin. "His position will not be refilled."