07/14/2010 6:23PM

Dollase hoping for hot Gold Cup pace

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. – At 7, Awesome Gem is the senior member of Saturday’s $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup. He has made more starts, 35, and earned more prize money, $1,974,682, than the other six projected starters.

He also may be the outsider capable of an upset.

Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and trained by Craig Dollase, Awesome Gem is making his 12th start in a Grade 1, seeking his first win at that level. In 2007, he was second in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar and third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Monmouth Park.

For Saturday’s Gold Cup, over 1 1/4 miles, Dollase is banking on Compari and Tres Borrachos setting a blazing pace that will soften the heavy favorite Rail Trip, a stalker. If that occurs, Awesome Gem could be a factor from the back of the field. If the pace is moderate, Awesome Gem may have trouble reaching a placing.

“I just love that there is some pace,” Dollase said. “Awesome Gem has been in some paceless races lately. Hopefully, it will set up for a closer and that closer is me.”

Awesome Gem is winless in four starts this year, including seconds in the $1 million Charles Town Classic in West Virginia in April and the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap in Texas in May. Still, he has earned $279,000 this year.

“I’m okay with that,” Dollase said. “He’s been solid.”

The Gold Cup field is also expected to include Cigar Man, Richard’s Kid, and Tap It Light. Victory Pete, who was third in the 2009 Strub Stakes, is likely to start in the $200,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on July 31, trainer Alexis Barba said.

Claims up from last year

Claiming activity has increased at Hollywood Park through July 3 compared with the corresponding period in 2009, but the figures are still well below the amount of money spent to claim horses in 2007 or 2008.

The average price of the claims this year has fallen, an indication that owners are on budgets in an effort to acquire race-ready horses.

Through July 3, there had been 117 claims worth a total of $2,410,500, or an average of $20,602 per claim. In 2009, there were 75 claims worth $1,949,500, an average of $25,993 per claim.

Those figures are a fraction of previous activity. In 2007, there were 202 claims for $5,765,000, an average of $28,539. In 2008, there were 164 claims for $4,392,500, an average of $26,783 per claim.

Claiming activity typically intensifies toward the end of the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting, as the popular Del Mar meeting grows closer.

Koriner fined, banned

Trainer Brian Koriner has been suspended seven days and fined $7,500 as part of a stipulated agreement with the California Horse Racing Board after one of his starters tested in excess of the permitted level of clenbuterol at Santa Anita in April.

In the ruling, released on Sunday, Koriner was suspended 45 days, but 38 days of the suspension have been stayed, provided that Koriner does not have a medication violation for drugs listed in Classes 1, 2, or 3 through July 4, 2011. Clenbuterol is a class 3 drug.

Koriner’s suspension began on Tuesday and continues through July 13.

The excessive level was found in a postrace test taken from Stormy Linda, a first-time starter who won a maiden claimer over five furlongs in the eighth race at Santa Anita on April 16. The $10,800 winner’s share of the purse was redistributed last month.

Trainer Kathy Walsh has been fined $500 after Love that Melody tested positive for the anti-inflammatory methylprednisolone in May.

Love that Melody, a first-time starter, finished second as the even-money favorite in the fourth race at Hollywood Park on May 7.

Global Hunter seeming better

Global Hunter, who was pulled up with an injury to his right front ankle after winning Sunday’s Grade 2 American Handicap, has shown improvement since undergoing surgery on Monday, trainer A.C. Avila said.

Global Hunter was sent to the Alamo Pintado Equine Clinic in Los Olivos, Calif., late Sunday and underwent surgery on Monday to have a plate and 16 stabilizing screws inserted in the injured leg.

“The horse walked perfect,” Avila said on Tuesday. “He rested. He was able to get up. We’re thinking he’s doing good.”

Global Hunter, a 7-year-old horse by Jade Hunter, is likely to remain at Alamo Pintado for a several weeks, and continue his recuperation at nearby Magali Farms, Avila said. He said he wanted to keep Global Hunter near Alamo Pintado if medical attention is needed.

Owned by Monte Pyle and Shawn Turner, Global Hunter has won 8 of 30 starts and $611,365. The Grade 2 American Handicap was his first victory since a win in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar last summer.