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A Speedy Race Would Fit Right Into Dollase's Plans at Gold Cup

Hollywood Park: Trainer thinks his Helmsman and Nonproductiveasset will be factors at the end if it happens.

June 29, 1996|BILL CHRISTINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Except for the outcome, trainer Wally Dollase would like to see Sunday's Hollywood Gold Cup run the way the Santa Anita Handicap played out four months ago.

"The speed came back at Santa Anita, and that set it up for Mr Purple," Dollase said. "There's more speed in this race than there was at Santa Anita, and if that speed comes back, I think both of my horses will be right there at the end."

Dollase will saddle Helmsman and Nonproductiveasset, two of the eight horses entered in the $1-million Gold Cup. Running as a betting entry, the Dollase duo is 3-1 on the morning line, the second choice behind Tinners Way, listed at 2-1. Mr Purple, who came from 10th place to win the Big 'Cap--his only win in his last eight starts--is 9-2 for the Gold Cup.

Fresh from victories in the San Fernando Stakes and the Strub, Helmsman was the Big 'Cap favorite and was less than two lengths from the lead on the far turn when he was bumped by Luthier Fever. Helmsman couldn't breathe properly--because of a displaced palate--and struggled to get home fourth, beaten by 10 lengths. That's the farthest back he has finished in his 14 races.

"Helmsman was wearing blinkers, and didn't know what happened to him," Dollase said. "He had his air cut off. He made a lot of noise coming back. He probably lost at least 20% of his air."

That's happened to only one of Dollase's horses before. In the 1991 Arlington Million, which was won by Tight Spot, Dollase's Itsallgreektome was jostled by Algenib and flipped his palate before finishing seventh.

"That was something," Dollase said, "because Algenib was my horse too. The rivalry was between The Greek and Tight Spot, but Algenib finished second that day and almost beat Tight Spot."

After the Santa Anita Handicap in March, Chris McCarron told Dollase that he was riding "a loaded gun" before the mishap. McCarron, who has ridden Helmsman in all of his races since the 4-year-old colt arrived from England last year, will be aboard for the 10th consecutive time, and no jockey covets a Gold Cup victory more than he does. McCarron, a Hall of Famer, has won many of the biggest races--including six Breeders' Cups and five Triple Crown races--but he has been blanked with 14 Gold Cup mounts. Those horses have earned more than $1 million, most of it because of nine second-place finishes.

"There's no pressure because of that," McCarron said. "But this is a race I really want to win, and I think I've got a good shot this year."

After the Santa Anita Handicap, Helmsman was treated with antibiotics and sent to the farm for three weeks. He has run twice at Hollywood Park since his return, finishing second behind the peaking Fastness in the 1 1/16-mile Inglewood Handicap on grass, and spotting Tinners Way six pounds while losing by half a length in the 1 1/8-mile Californian on June 2. For the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup, Tinners Way, the high weight, will carry 121 pounds, one more than Helmsman.

Luthier Fever, the horse that got in Helmsman's way at Santa Anita, is trained by Ted West, and Dollase sees some irony in that.

"I claimed Nonproductiveasset off Ted," Dollase said.

That was at Hollywood Park in May 1993, a $40,000 claim that Dollase has parlayed into purses of almost $400,000, even though there have been large gaps in Nonproductiveasset's record because of bleeding problems.

Nonproductiveasset, trying to join Best Pal and Slew Of Damascus as geldings who have won the Gold Cup in the 1990s, raced only one time before Dollase bought him.

"He had been fourth in a maiden-special-weights race at Santa Anita," Dollase said. "He got into a lot of trouble that day. I like a horse with a good shoulder on him, and this horse certainly fit that."

The first time Dollase saddled him, in June 1993 at Hollywood, Nonproductiveasset won a turf allowance. Cigar was making his fourth start and finished third in the race. A lot of California horses were outrunning Cigar three years ago.

A month after his first win for Dollase, Nonproductiveasset won a grass stake, but in March 1994, back on dirt for the Santa Anita Handicap, the horse finished fifth and bled badly from the nostrils. Despite Lasix, Nonproductiveasset bled again, and he has been lightly raced since then. Last year, he made only one start, an eighth-place finish in the San Antonio Handicap. This year, without being tested in top stakes competition, he has one win, two seconds and a third in four starts.

"We've got the bleeding under control," Dollase said. "Otherwise, he's a very sound horse, one of the soundest on the track."

Nonproductiveasset is weighted at 114 pounds, second only to Luthier Fever among the low weights, and Dollase likes both of his outside post positions, No. 6 for the gelding and No. 8 for Helmsman.

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