07/04/2005 11:00PM

Dollase takes two shots at Gold Cup

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Craig Dollase plans to run Pt's Grey Eagle and Anziyan Royalty.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Bad luck in recent years has made trainer Craig Dollase anxious about Saturday's $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup.

Three times in the last four years Dollase has had a starter in the Gold Cup, Hollywood Park's most prestigious race. He has yet to win, and twice has had experiences bordering on nightmare.

In 2001, Futural finished first, but was disqualified and placed third for causing interference in the stretch. A year later, Momentum finished second by a nose to Sky Jack. Last year, Dollase ran the longshot Royal Moro, who finished fifth.

"It's not for a lack of trying," Dollase said of his lack of a Gold Cup trophy. "It has been a nemesis of mine."

This year, for the first time, Dollase will have two starters - Anziyan Royalty and Pt's Grey Eagle. Both will be longshots in a large field.

The Grade 1 Gold Cup is led by Limehouse, the winner of the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park on June 11. Other probable starters include Al Arz, Borrego, Congrats, Deputy Lad, Keep on Punching, Lava Man, Musique Toujours, and Perfect Drift.

Lava Man, the winner of the Californian Stakes on June 18, carries starting high weight of 118 pounds, one more than Congrats, Limehouse, and Perfect Drift.

The Gold Cup is being run as a handicap for the first time since 1996, and is expected to have its largest field since Ferdinand beat 10 rivals in 1987. The race has not had a 10-horse field since Best Pal won in 1993.

None of the probable starters for Saturday's race has won a Grade 1 this year. The absence of a standout played a major role in the decision to start Pt's Grey Eagle, according to owner Paul Reddam.

"In other years, you wouldn't take a shot," he said.

Pt's Grey Eagle, 4, won the Grade 1 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap over six furlongs at Santa Anita last October prior to finishing eighth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita.

In two starts this year, Pt's Grey Eagle has finished sixth in an optional claimer over six furlongs at Churchill Downs and second by a nose in his first start around two turns, in an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles here on June 16.

"I think Pt's really benefited from that race," Dollase said.

The Gold Cup distance of 1 1/4 miles will be a stern test for Pt's Grey Eagle.

"Like last year, it has taken a while for him to come along," Reddam said. "He'll be a long price and a huge overweight."

Pt's Grey Eagle was assigned 113 pounds, but jockey Corey Nakatani rides at 116 pounds or more.

Anziyan Royalty was second by a length in the Californian, his best result in three starts this year. Last fall, Anziyan Royalty finished third in the California Cup Classic for statebreds at Santa Anita and won the On Trust Handicap here over 7 1/2 furlongs.

Limehouse, trained in New York by Todd Pletcher, is the likely favorite. Pletcher said he chose the Gold Cup to give Limehouse a shot at a Grade 1 victory.

Choctaw Nation will await Del Mar

The Gold Cup field will not include Choctaw Nation, who finished third in the $6 million Dubai World Cup in March. Trainer Jeff Mullins insists that the 5-year-old Choctaw Nation does not like the Hollywood main track.

Choctaw Nation won an allowance race here over 1 1/8 miles last summer and was fifth in the recent Californian Stakes.

"He barely won" the allowance race here last year, Mullins said. "It was one of the lowest numbers on his form."

Mullins said Choctaw Nation will be aimed for a defense of his title in the $250,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on July 24. Choctaw Nation worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 at Hollywood on Monday.

Don't Get Mad heads Swaps

The Gold Cup is the richest race on a program that includes the $400,000 Swaps Breeders' Cup Stakes for 3-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles and the $150,000 A Gleam Handicap for fillies and mares over seven furlongs.

In the Swaps, Don't Get Mad faces the first three finishers from the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap on June 18, Indian Ocean, Surf Cat, and Dover Dere; Robador, the winner of the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for statebreds here in April; and the allowance race winners Khyber's Pass and Son of a Pistol. Don't Get Mad won two stakes during the Churchill Downs meeting this year.

The Grade 2 A Gleam is led by Alphabet Kisses, the winner of the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita last December, and Puxa Saco, who won the Desert Stormer Handicap here on June 5.

Andujar could ship to Saratoga

Andujar, third as the beaten favorite in Sunday's $300,000 Vanity Handicap, will make her next start at Saratoga or Del Mar, trainer Doug O'Neill said.

O'Neill and majority owner Reddam are strongly considering the $250,000 Go for Wand Stakes at Saratoga on July 31, but O'Neill said the $300,000 Clement Hirsch Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 7 is also possible.

Reddam said Andujar is more likely for Saratoga because that race has Grade 1 status.

"The filly needs a Grade 1 win," he said.

Andujar, 4, was beaten a length by Splendid Blended in the Grade 1 Vanity after leading for much of the race.

O'Neill blamed himself for the loss, saying he had not trained Andujar as strenuously as he should have.

"I thought I was too light on her," O'Neill said. "She put on weight since her last race. I can fix that."

Regardless of where she runs, Andujar will have an equipment change, and will not wear blinkers.

"She trains well without them," he said.

Strong handle, attendance for Oaks

Sunday's 11-race American Oaks program produced the highest all-sources handle of the meeting, $22,057,813, and the third-highest handle in California this year. Only the Santa Anita Handicap ($22,675,695) and Santa Anita Derby ($22,660,720) programs had higher handles.

Sunday's ontrack attendance of 18,121 was 6.5 percent higher than the 2004 American Oaks program. The all-sources handle improved 17 percent.

Despite those increases, the meeting has suffered declines in both handle and attendance. Through Sunday, the average ontrack attendance of 7,621 marked a 7 percent loss over 2004. Average ontrack handle is down 2 percent, to $1,730,623, while all-sources average handle of $10,385,654 is down 1 percent.

The only category to show growth has been account deposit wagering through the telephone and Internet, which has grown 11.5 percent to $785,554.

With only nine days remaining in the meeting, the final figures are likely to be near those averages, track president Rick Baedeker said. Hollywood is hoping to have a big day on Saturday for the Gold Cup program. The 2004 Gold Cup drew an ontrack crowd of 18,046, who contributed to an all-sources handle of $16,972,210.

"With the Gold Cup being a better betting race, we may have a little better day than last year," Baedeker said.

Baedeker said a strong American Oaks Day significantly helped the track's purse account, which he said was in a deficit going into Sunday's card.

"If you look at field size over the last three weeks, we were slipping with the purse account," he said. "With any decent business for the rest of the meeting, we should end okay."

Martinez's whip cleared

Investigators with the California Horse Racing Board inspected jockey Felipe Martinez's whip after he won Sunday's $250,000 American Handicap aboard Whilly, but found no evidence of wrongdoing, according to the jockey and another witness.

A CHRB spokesman was unavailable to comment.

Martinez had returned to the jockeys' room after the race when investigators said they wanted to inspect his whip for a possible electrical device.

"I guess somebody said something," Martinez said on Monday. "They wanted to see my whip."

The timing of the investigation angered O'Neill, the trainer of Whilly.

"It's unbelievable and a slap in the face to all of us," O'Neill said.