Updated on 09/17/2011 10:26AM

Six-figure Ascot 'Cap purse attracts only 13


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Bay Meadows officials gambled a bit when they decided to maintain the $100,000 purse for Saturday's Ascot Handicap.

The gamble may have backfired.

Only 13 3-year-olds were nominated for the 1 1/16-mile turf race. Neither of the two highweights, Steelaninch, winner of La Puente at Santa Anita in his last start, and California Derby winner Mr. Technique, will start.

The Ascot, won last year by Van Rouge off a maiden victory, became a graded race in 1989. The 1999 race was not graded after having to be postponed because of a problem with the turf course and then rescheduled for the dirt. The Ascot lost its Grade 3 status after last year, but its purse remained at $100,000 for this year.

The decision to maintain the six-figure purse seemed strange to some observers in light of $460,000 being trimmed from this year's stakes budget and $50,000 in purse reductions in graded races such as the San Francisco Breeders' Cup Mile (northern California's only Grade 2 race), the Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Sprint, the Yerba Buena Handicap, the Seabiscuit, and the California Derby.

"We felt that with the other reductions, we should try to keep this at $100,000," said Richard Lewis, the track's director of racing operations. "There really wasn't anything for 3-year-olds after the California Derby, and we felt we could get a good field with the race on the turf."

Bay Meadows added $20,000 to the purse of the Bay Meadows Oaks, a $75,000 turf race for 3-year-old fillies, which will be run June 14.

The track hoped the Ascot would attract some horses who were being pointed to the Grade 3 Will Rogers at Hollywood Park on May 25, but Steelaninch will pass the Ascot to concentrate on the Will Rogers, and Mr. Technique will run in the $500,000 Lone Star Derby on Saturday.

The track may have harbored fleeting hopes that the Ascot could regain its graded status, but that appears unlikely based on the horses listed as definite early in the week.

Both Direct Male and Helms Deep are maiden winners. Just Wonder, Rapier Dance, and Runnin' on Nitro have won only their first allowance condition. Iron Lad, who has only a maiden victory in Europe, is listed as probable, while Frisco Johnny, who has a maiden win and a $40,000 starter allowance victory, also is a candidate.

Win machine returns

Mayneunderfire, who has turned into a win machine for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, returns in Wednesday's feature, a $12,500 starter allowance race at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. He drew the rail in the field of eight that includes Russell Cave, claimed from a victory in his last start, and Cappucino Kid, the last horse to beat him.

The 5-year-old gelding has won two of four starts this year with a second and third. He was 8 for 11 last year and has a career mark of 12 for 22. His victories ranged from the $6,500 starter allowance level to the first allowance level, but he seems very comfortable at the $12,500 starter level.

"All trainers love horses that have the will to win like he does," Hollendorfer said. "He was a horse that had a lot of problems. We dropped him to a level he could handle, and he's just gotten better."

* Long-time trainer Bill Mastrangelo will host his 22nd annual bowling tournament to support the ALS Research Foundation on Tuesday, May 27, at Granada Bowl in Livermore. The entry fee is $30 per person for five-member teams. The entry fee includes three games of bowling, free rental shoes, and a spaghetti dinner following the 12:30 p.m. tournament.

Those interested should contact Mastrangelo or Ray Harris, or fax Granada Bowl at (925) 447-7834 to enter.