08/19/2001 11:00PM

Dollase can't figure Futural's race

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DEL MAR, Calif.- Craig Dollase, the trainer of Futural, on Monday morning was at a loss to explain why his horse, favored in Sunday's Pacific Classic, ran last throughout and lost by 22 1/2 lengths.

"I thought he might have bled, but we scoped him, and he didn't," Dollase said. "We'll have to wait for the medication to wear off and have the vet go over him. That wasn't him. Something must be wrong, but I don't know what it is yet."

Futural has had a star-crossed summer. He was disqualified from victory in the Hollywood Gold Cup, then ran second to Skimming in the San Diego Handicap. He was a slight favorite, over Skimming, in the Pacific Classic.

Captain Steve gets a break

Another dull performance from Captain Steve has convinced his trainer, Bob Baffert, that the 4-year-old colt needs a rest. Captain Steve finished fourth in the Pacific Classic, and though he lost the race by a little more than six lengths, he never was a threat and ran evenly throughout. It was his fourth straight loss, and second out-of-the-money finish, since capturing the Dubai World Cup in March.

"He's fine," Baffert said Monday morning. "When he turned for home he was in a good spot, but he's not extending himself. I'm going to freshen him up for the Breeders' Cup. If he's doing great, I'll run him. If not, I won't."

Captain Steve finished third in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic. He was not an original nominee to the Breeders' Cup, but because he was supplemented to last year's race, he would not have to be supplemented this time.

Frankel has two in Del Mar 'Cap

White Heart was assigned top weight of 120 pounds for Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Del Mar Handicap, but since he ran in last Saturday's Arlington Million, the top weight assignment will fall to Timboroa, who will carry 118 pounds and will be one of two runners in the race trained by the red-hot Bobby Frankel.

Frankel also is expected to run Northern Quest, the race's defending champion, who was assigned 116 pounds.

Others expected for the Del Mar Handicap, a 1 3/8-mile turf race, include Cagney, Falcon Flight, Fusaichi Zenon, Kudos, Shelter Cove, and Sumati.

Sunday's Grade 1, $250,000 Del Mar Debutante should have a small field, topped by Sorrento Stakes winner Tempera. Others expected for the seven-furlong race are Habibaty, Lil Miss Hollywood, and Who Loves Aleyna.

Riding race neck and neck

The jockey's race may come down to the final days of the meeting, which ends on Sept. 5.

Through Sunday, Alex Solis led the standings with 24 winners, but had four jockeys within seven winners chasing him. Laffit Pincay Jr. (22 wins), Victor Espinoza (20), Mike Smith (17), and Jose Valdivia Jr. (17) completed the top five.

The close race is a change from recent Del Mar meetings, when Corey Nakatani (1998) and Victor Espinoza (2000) were comfortable winners. David Flores won the 1999 title by six wins over Solis, but last year Espinoza won the title by 19.

"This is the tightest I've seen it in years," said Valdivia, who is within striking range of Solis. "It's competitive. It's great to see how tight it is."

Valdivia and Mike Smith are the new faces in the top 10 at this meeting. Valdivia had a poor meeting here last year, but was in the top 15 in 1998. This year, he is riding for several successful stables, including those of trainer Alfredo Marquez and Scott Hansen. Smith is riding in California on a full-time basis for the first time this year.

While they are doing well, such familiar names as Chris McCarron and Nakatani are having slow meetings. Kent Desormeaux had three winners on Sunday, his best day of an otherwise quiet meeting.

"Nakatani and Desormeaux were the leading riders a few years ago and it shows how deep the colony is," Valdivia said. "It's tough. I came out here on a Tuesday and I saw Eddie Delahoussaye and McCarron working horses after the second break. I thought, 'Go home. Take a break.' I've just got to stay at it."

Carava scratches favorite

Jack Carava, the top trainer at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting, does not have the stock to dethrone Bob Baffert as the leading trainer here, but he lost a chance for a winner in Saturday's second race.

Jazznwithwindy was the 4-5 favorite in an allowance race/optional claimer when she was scratched after flipping over during the walk from the stable area to the receiving barn. Carava said the 7-year-old mare was unhurt.

"Once they fall, you don't want to run them," Carava said. "Hopefully she'll be all right. If not, we'll give her some time off."

Through Sunday, Carava was in fourth place in the trainer's standings with 11 winners, trailing Bob Baffert (17), Bobby Frankel (13) and Bill Spawr (12).

* Bill Shoemaker celebrated his 70th birthday at Del Mar on Sunday. Among those who joined Shoemaker in the winner's circle for a brief ceremony between races were former riding stars Bill Harmatz, John Longden, Don Pierce, George Taniguchi, and Ray York, in addition to the current jockey colony.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen

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