05/04/2008 11:00PM

Starter series experiment a success

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Among the highlights of the final week of the spring meet at Bay Meadows is Saturday's $60,000 third leg of the Triple Play series at 1 1/4 miles.

Horses entered in the 1 1/16-mile first leg on Marcho16 were eligible to be claimed for $10,000. Starter allowance conditions were used for both the April 13 second leg and Saturday's finale.

Richard Lewis, Bay Meadows director of racing, created the series, which sparked great interest in its first year. Eighty-eight claims were made in the first leg, with 36 slips in for Newton John and 25 for Iron Duke, the race's winner.

"The first race response was amazing," Lewis said. "People that I had not seen in a long time were there, and owners that I had not seen in a long time put in claims. It revitalized the business that day."

Racing secretary Tom Doutrich said he thinks some nice seeds have been planted if Golden Gate Fields wants to continue a similar series in the future. Doutrich, who will be the racing secretary at all the fairs, will offer two different series during the upcoming fair season.

There will be a mixed series with sprints and routes offered over the course of the fair meets, and a special three-race series similar to the Triple Play for the Bay Meadows Fair, Cal Expo at Sacramento, and San Joaquin Fair at Stockton. The sprint-route championship will be determined on a points basis that could see a sprinter or a router winning the overall championship while only competing in his specialty.

Trainers have some ideas about making the series better.

Bill Morey suggested that the purse be higher in the first race if the horses can be claimed. Morey and Armando Lage both suggested some type of reward for the owner of a horse that was claimed if that horse were to win the series finale.

Doutrich said that contingency would be in place for the special three-race series this summer.

Mark Rheinford suggested that all the races be starter allowances, an idea that will be used in this summer's sprint-route series.

Steve Sherman said he expected more participation, particularly from Southern California horses, next year.

Roger Hansen suggested actually expanding the distances, possibly starting with 1 1/8 miles and moving up to 1 1/2 miles.

Lage also suggested that future series be spread around different claiming levels with the possibility of a series for fillies and mares and another on turf.

In the only disappointing aspect of the series, just 16 horses were entered for the first leg. Doutrich and Lewis hoped to get between 20 and 30 runners, so the race could be divided into two large divisions. But all 13 that eventually competed in the first leg went on to run in the second leg.

Doutrich expects between eight and 10 to run Saturday.

Mother's Day draws 18 nominees

Eighteen fillies and mares were nominated to Sunday's closing-day $55,000 Mother's Day Handicap at 1o1/16 miles on the turf, with Unspoken Word, who edged favored Wild Promises by a head earlier in the meet in the Hillsborough Handicap, listed as the 119-pound highweight, carrying one pound more than Wild Promises.

Stakes winners Royal Kleven, Rockella, Private Banking, Opal Haze, Good Mood, Butters, and Andover the Cash, who was third in the Hillsborough, are among the nominees. Also nominated is She's Sensational, who would be seeking her fourth straight win in her stakes debut.

Pick-six carryover Wednesday

Wednesday's card features a $36,398 pick six carryover.

The sequence opens with a full field of $20,000 maiden claimers going five furlongs on the turf in what seems the toughest race, and a likely spread for bettors.

Tiz Madison is a possible single in the second leg, a six-furlong optional $32,000 claimer, while Corkonian, who has won three straight, and possibly Priest River, who will be gunning for three in a row, should attract most of the action in a $4,000 claimer at 1 1/16 miles.

A second five-furlong turf race, an optional $25,000 claimer for fillies and mares, includes Storminbayou-babe, whose only loss in four turf sprints came in a stakes, and Velvety Smooth, whose record is 4-2-1-1 in turf sprints. Five of the 10 horses have never run on grass.

A $4,000 claimer at one mile for fillies and mares also seems to offer some price possibilities, while Gerbica, a runner-up against the red-hot Pamelot in her last start, could be a single in the finale, a $40,000 starter allowance at one mile on the turf for fillies and mares.