07/09/2008 12:00AM

Some items went under radar


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - When you cram five significant stakes events into one lazy summer afternoon at a track on the left coast of the nation, there will be a whole pile of stories that slip through the cracks. It happened last Saturday at Hollywood Park. In all the hubbub over Pure Clan's American Oaks, perfect Zenyatta's sixth straight win and a slam-bang CashCall Mile, these juicy tidbits went untold:

* Bob Holthus, veteran trainer of Pure Clan, wasn't the only Hollywood Park rookie to have a good day. The performance of 2004 French champion Ioritz Mendizabal aboard Oaks runner-up Satan's Circus was flawless. Mendizabal, 34, is a Basque from the Spanish town of Oiartzun. He enjoyed a fine career in the French provinces before taking Paris by storm. Still, even if Mendizabal had won the Oaks, it would have taken a backseat to his victory in this year's French Derby aboard Vision d'Etat.

* Besides Mendizabal, the jocks' room was spiced by such invaders as Ireland's Patrick Smullen and John Egan, New York's Alan Garcia and Javier Castellano, Canada's Patrick Husbands, as well as more familiar faces like those of Garrett Gomez and Julien Leparoux.

* Lion Heart won the Hollywood Futurity and the Haskell, but he might be forever stuck with the images of his game second-place finishes in the Kentucky Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes. As a stallion, he is off the mark in a hurry. He got his first graded stakes winner last Saturday with Azul Leon's four-length win in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship. Azul Leon races for Joe Lacombe, owner of the 1997 Horse of the Year, Favorite Trick.

* Old School was definitely in session last Saturday, even though the CashCall Mile went to the eminently youthful Jim Cassidy (62) and the Vanity was won by Zen-master John Shirreffs (63). Bob Holthus admits to 74, as does Bruce Headley, although it's probably better to date those guys in horse years.

Headley unwrapped another layer of 4-year-old Street Boss to win the $300,000 Triple Bend Handicap, a half-hour after the Oaks. The direct beneficiary was David Flores, who sat in his cubicle at the end of the day extolling the virtues of Headley's old-timey training.

"His horses feel so natural," Flores said. "I work a lot of horses for him, and what you feel in the morning you get in the afternoon."

After wins with Street Boss in the Los Angeles Handicap and the Triple Bend, the feeling is pretty good.

Curlin on the brain

Everyone in racing is required to spend at least 10 minutes a day thinking about Curlin. Today's meditation settled lightly upon these considerations:

Jess Jackson has been deified for sacrificing breeding billions to race Curlin this season at the ripe old age of 4. In fact, it was the premature retirements of Curlin contemporaries Street Sense, Hard Spun, and Any Given Saturday that set Jackson apart in this particular case. Credit where credit is due, but until someone steps up to campaign a horse like Curlin at age 5 (see Frank Stronach and Ghostzapper), let's hold off on the sainthood.

And what's all this about the Arc de Triomphe being the greatest race in the world, the one Curlin's got to win to do something truly out of the ordinary? The Arc is no more or less difficult to win than the Japan Cup, the Epsom Derby, the Kentucky Derby, or the Melbourne Cup.

Steve Asmussen, pumping up Arc fever, described winning back-to-back Breeders' Cup Classics as something less than unique. The trainer was not minimizing the accomplishment of Tiznow - the only horse who has done it - but he did say they wanted to do "something nobody's done before" with Curlin.

This, of course, is putting human hubris before the horse, but at least Asmussen's worship of Curlin has a certain charm. Someone obviously has failed to point out that there is a perfectly good, world-class, 1 1/2-mile grass race on the Breeders' Cup program, called the Breeders' Cup Turf. And winning two different Breeders' Cup races is another thing nobody's done before, if that's important.

If Jackson wants to take his horse to France, c'est la vie. Oh, and in case the news was buried in your local paper, this year, for the first time, the Arc will be sponsored by Qatar Petroleum, but only because there is no French equivalent of Yum! Brands.

Here's a revolutionary thought. Wouldn't it be nice to see Curlin on real TV? It has been nearly nine months since the Greatest Horse in the World soared through the gloom of Breeders' Cup Day at Monmouth Park, surviving the Classic in a grand performance that was muted by the death of another runner. Neither of Curlin's races in Dubai made it live to any kind of network exposure (other than the betting channels TVG and HRTV), nor did his return to America in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs.

That leaves Saturday's Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park as perhaps the last time an American television audience will be able to see Curlin perform. Nothing was scheduled originally for a Man o' War telecast. Then came the announcement that ESPNews would provide coverage of this remarkable horse live and in all of his chestnut glory. Good for them for doing the right thing.