06/11/2007 11:00PM

Dolan wins on first try after hiatus


Trainer John Dolan discovered two years ago that there are more important things than winning races.

Like surviving cancer.

On Sunday at Golden Gate Fields, Dolan started his first runner since 2005, when he dispersed the 25 horses in his barn because it was diagnosed he had thyroid cancer.

"That gave me a pretty good scare," Dolan said. "I quit training, but as I recovered I began to buy and sell horses, pinhooking a few."

One of the best runners Dolan was involved with was Quick Little Miss, who won two stakes as a 2-year-old last year and finished second in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet. Some of the horses he was selling while away from training were doing so well, he said, he wished he were in charge of them.

So when the 2-year-old Gold No Silver didn't go for the price Dolan wanted, he kept him and put him in training himself. And on Sunday, in raceo1, Gold No Silver won his debut by two lengths, easing clear in the lane after being challenged early.

"That may get him sold," Dolan said. "He ran professionally. When the others got involved, he just re-broke."

Dolan's past training career had plenty of highlights. He claimed and then trained Lazy Slusan to Grade 1 victories in the 2001 Santa Margarita at Santa Anita and Milady at Hollywood Park en route to cracking the $1 million mark in earnings. He also had multiple graded-stakes winner Irish Eyes Are Flying.

Dolan, who trained horses for 23 years, always had a small stable.

"The best I think I ever finished was seventh in the standings at Santa Anita," he said. "Right now, I'm only training my own horses. I'm not sure if I'm ready for the stress of running a public stable."

Botton line: Ontrack success

Golden Gate general manager Robert Hartman was happy with the results of the 2007 spring meeting that ended Sunday.

"I think we had another strong meet," he said. "Our handle was up compared with dates last year, and our promotional mix worked well."

Although final totals, including a full accounting of advance-deposit wagering, are not in, the all-sources handle on live Golden Gate Fields races averaged $3,290,033 daily, for a total of $115,151,168 for the 35-day meet. That total was up 4.7 percent from the $109,979,135 figure for corresponding dates at Bay Meadows in 2006. The increase came primarily from a 10.5 percent increase in out-of-state wagering on Golden Gate races ($64,361,488 compared with $58,254,769 at Bay Meadows in 2006), as the ontrack live handle decreased 16.4 percent, to a total of $22,059,086, down from the 2006 Bay Meadows total of $26,416,363.

Golden Gate's decision to make every Sunday a "Dollar Day" with $1 parking, admission, programs, hot dogs, beer, and soda paid off nicely. There were 5,335 fans in attendance on closing day Sunday, and Sunday attendance averaged 4,500 for the meet. Overall, daily attendance for the 35 dates averaged 2,844.

"It brought out a new crowd," Hartman said of the dollar promotion. "I think we introduced new fans to racing. We saw a lot of younger fans. Our newcomer and customer service booths got good play. We need to continue to increase our fan base. We're here for the long-term future."

The "Score Four" promotion, a giveaway of a free jacket to fans who attended on the three Triple Crown days plus Sunday's closing day, ended up giving away 475 jackets.

Russell Baze and Jerry Hollendorfer again were the meet's leading jockey and trainer, respectively.

Baze finished with 68 victories for his 31st Golden Gate riding title. Joel Rosario finished second with 38 wins, with Chad Schvaneveldt third with 29.

Hollendorfer won his 31st straight Golden Gate training title with 33 victories. Art Sherman snapped a tie going into the final day with Billy Morey, finishing second with 25 winners. Morey had 23 from only 55 starters, a 41.8 percent winning total.

Baze on vacation

Russell Baze left Monday for a 10-day European vacation, a gift to him from Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields for surpassing Laffit Pincay Jr.'s world record for victories at Bay Meadows last December. Baze will spend four days in England, three in France, and three in Italy, and expects to take in the races in England while there.

He pushed the trip back one day to ride the closing day at Golden Gate.

Lost in the Fog honored

Golden Gate Fields unveiled its new Lost in the Fog memorial wall outside the turf club Sunday. It features a collage of pictures from the Eclipse Award-winning sprinter's fabulous career.

A plaque honoring the colt, who died of cancer last September, was dedicated at the winner's circle following the fifth race. It joins winner's circle plaques honoring Bill Shoemaker and Silky Sullivan.

"I want to thank Golden Gate for paying tribute to a great horse," Lost in the Fog's owner, Harry Aleo, said at the brief ceremony.

Aleo was touched by the memorial wall, calling it "beautiful," and was pleased by the plaque that helps immortalize the colt who won his first 10 starts, earning a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure in each race.

Imaginary Sailor made it 2 for 2 in his young career in winning the inaugural Lost in the Fog Stakes for 2-year-olds later in the day.

"I'm honored to win the first-ever race named for Lost in the Fog," said Hollendorfer, who owns and trains Imaginary Sailor. "We hope to carry on the tradition."

Imaginary Sailor, a half-brother of Cause to Believe, broke a bit slowly and was about a length behind the pack leaving the gate. He quickly got into stride but moved up so well, he had to check into the turn in the five-furlong race before going through a rail opening and winning going away.

Winning jockey Schvaneveldt, who worked Lost in the Fog before he got to the races, was more impressed with Imaginary Sailor on Sunday than he was in the colt's debut win.

"He's very professional," Schvaneveldt said. "Underneath you, he feels like a 3-year-old, not a 2-year-old. You haven't seen the best of him, because I think the farther he goes the better he's going to be. Who knows? He might be the next Lost in the Fog."