04/07/2008 11:00PM

Series' second leg will be less frantic


SAN MATEO, Calif. - After the madness surrounding the first leg of the Triple Play Race Series, a three-race series that offers inflated purses for claiming horses, Sunday's second leg should be relatively tame.

Thirteen ran in the two divisions of the March 16 first leg, which was for $10,000 claimers. A total of 88 claims were dropped for seven horses in the two races, resulting in 50 owners and trainers crowding together to watch the shake for each horse.

That won't happen in Sunday's leg, because it will be run under starter allowance conditions, so horses cannot be claimed. Sunday's leg will be run at 1 1/8 miles, a sixteenth of a mile longer than the first leg. The series finale, to be run March 10, is at 1 1/4 miles. Sunday's purse is $20,000, while the purse for the finale is estimated at $60,000.

Only the 13 horses who ran in the first leg are eligible to Sunday's leg, and only those who run in both can run in the finale.

Iron Duke and Bonfire Burt were the respective winners of the two divisions of the first leg. Iron Duke had 25 claims in for him, and he was taken by trainer Mark Rheinford. Bonfire Burt wasn't claimed.

John Buc saddled Bonfire Burt, and he pointed out that the horse was entered for a $9,000 claiming tag and picked up $10,800 for his win. Pretty good for a horse that Buc said he and owner Hin Mak were willing to sell for $2,500 six weeks earlier.

Trainer Armando Lage said the series gives "average horses" a shot at some good money.

"I really liked the idea," said Lage, whose horse Trato ran fifth in the second division of the first leg. "It was exciting, and it's challenging. It's not for the big owners."

Rheinford said Iron Duke will run on Sunday. He likes the four-week break between each race and said it's easier to train a horse up to a race that is certain to be run, rather than for a typical claiming race, which may not attract enough entries.

Field of six for Bay Meadows Oaks

Only six 3-year-old fillies were entered in Saturday's $75,000 Bay Meadows Oaks at 1 1/16 miles.

The locally based runners are Ice Lady, Christmas Ship, and Naturally Perfect. Those heading in from Southern California are Divine Legacy, fourth in Grade 1 races in her last two starts; Seattle Smooth, who lost by a neck in the California Oaks at Golden Gate Fields; and the stakes winner Snake Proof.

Bonfante earns Smile Sprint invite

Owner Lewis Figone said his homebred 7-year-old gelding Bonfante has been invited to run in the Grade 2, $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap on July 12 at Calder's Summit of Speed.

Bonfante rallied to win his third straight California Turf Sprint on Saturday, and Figone's first words when asked about the race were: "We're going to Florida now."

Figone believes that Bonfante is better on the turf than the dirt, the surface of the Smile, but five of his nine stakes victories, including this year's Grade 3 Bay Meadows Sprint Handicap, have come on the main track.

Figone said he plans to retire Bonfante after this year.

Tribesman faded to fifth in the California Turf Sprint after looking like a winner at the eighth pole. It was his first race on turf.

Jockey Chad Schvaneveldt said Tribesman was bumped early in the race, but still made the lead. He said Tribesman was a little unsure of his footing on the turf, but "when we got back on the dirt to come back, he wanted to run off with me."

* The Thoroughbred Owners of California will hold a seminar Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at the horsemen's lounge to discuss racehorse conformation. For information or to sign up, call (800) 994-9909.

* California Thoroughbred Trainers recently asked 55 Northern California trainers whether they preferred racing over a dirt track or the Tapeta track at Golden Gate Fields. Forty-five trainers preferred Tapeta and five preferred dirt, while three said they were neutral and two opted not to participate.