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Momentum Is On Dollase's Side Now

Horse racing: Trainer seeks to rebound from stewards' ruling against Futural in last year's Hollywood Gold Cup.

July 13, 2002|BILL CHRISTINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Having watched Momentum's final breeze before Sunday's $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup, trainer Craig Dollase left the clockers' booth on the backstretch and headed back to his barn.

Halfway there, Dollase homed in on the significance of his running a horse in Hollywood Park's richest race for the second consecutive year.

"They owe me one," Dollase said.

The reference was to the Gold Cup last year, when Dollase's Futural appeared to be a convincing 1 1/2-length winner. But after nine minutes of hand-wringing, the three stewards ruled that the winner, having ducked in on Skimming near the eighth pole, had bumped the other horse hard enough to be disqualified. Aptitude, a stablemate of Skimming and never a threat to overtake Futural in the stretch, was moved up from second to first. Futural was dropped to third place, behind Skimming, the horse he had fouled. The purse difference between first and third place was $405,000.

With the 63rd Gold Cup a day away, many of the principals from last year's polemic are back for more, though for some the roles have changed. With Momentum, Dollase will again be running against trainer Bobby Frankel, who trained both Aptitude and Skimming. This time Frankel has Milwaukee Brew, the 8-5 morning-line favorite. Garrett Gomez, who rode Skimming last year, has switched sides and is aboard Momentum, at 4-1 the third choice. Laffit Pincay, whose win with Aptitude was No. 8 in the Gold Cup, is riding the dangerous speedster, Sky Jack, as he bids to break a tie with Bill Shoemaker.

If there is lingering bitterness within Dollase from last year's disqualification, it doesn't show. He is the 31-year-old son and former assistant of Wally Dollase, a successful horseman, and in 1998, at 27 and in his first full year away from his father, he became the youngest trainer to saddle a Breeders' Cup winner with Reraise in the Sprint at Churchill Downs.

"Last year was a heart-wrenching experience," Dollase said. "I can't really fault the stewards, because they have a job to do, but I knew I ran the best horse and it was a tough pill to swallow."

Futural has run well in only one important race since the Gold Cup. Four weeks later, he finished second to Skimming, a horse who owns Del Mar, in the San Diego Handicap. In August, as the favorite in the $1-million Pacific Classic, Futural ran last, beaten by more than 22 lengths.

"He came out of that race with hind-end problems, and he was never the same Futural after that," Dollase said.

Futural's last stakes start under Dollase was this year's Santa Anita Handicap. He was favored again but finished 12th, beating two horses, and was almost 21 lengths behind Milwaukee Brew, who registered his first Grade I win. Futural ran three more times for Dollase, none of them stakes, and on June 6, for $80,000, the 6-year-old gelding was claimed by trainer J.T. Marshall as he ran last at Hollywood Park. In his first start for Marshall, last Sunday at Pleasanton, Futural was fourth in the $50,000 Alamedan Handicap.

"He's just not sharp anymore," Dollase said. "It's sad. You hate to see him going down the way he is. I just hope they provide a nice home for him when he's through running."

Momentum, who runs for J. Paul Reddam of Laguna Beach, one of Dollase's biggest clients, ran his first seven races on grass for another stable in England. Bought by Reddam and sent to Dollase last fall, Momentum finished second to Mizzen Mast in a minor grass stake at Hollywood Park in November, and has run only on dirt ever since.

"He trained well over dirt, and he has Foolish Pleasure on the bottom [the dam's side of his pedigree]," Dollase said. "So we thought he'd take to it."

After winning the Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood in his dirt debut in December, Momentum has gone winless this year. The 4-year-old colt's training was interrupted when he came out of the Strub, at Santa Anita in February, with a cracked hoof on his left foreleg. Since coming back, Momentum has been second in an allowance at Hollywood in late May and on June 15 he was third, beaten by one length, as Milwaukee Brew and Bosque Redondo ran 1-2 in the Californian.

The Gold Cup is 1 1/4 miles, an eighth of a mile farther than the Californian. In Momentum's only start at that distance, on the grass in 2001, he finished seventh.

"The distance will be no problem," Dollase said. "We are picking up weight [going from 118 to 124 pounds]. The lone if is Sky Jack. You just hope he's not allowed to dictate the pace. When they pop the gate, some decisions will have to be made. But what do they say? That the third race off a layoff ought to be a horse's best? Well, that's the position my horse will be in."

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Came Home is the 7-5 morning-line favorite for the $500,000 Swaps Stakes, which will also be run Sunday. Others entered are Tracemark, 5-2; Like A Hero, 6-1; Fonz's, 8-1; Gobi Dan, 12-1; and Sugar Babe and Battler Bob, both 15-1. John Toffan and Trudy McCaffery, who race Came Home in a partnership, have won the Swaps with Free House in 1997 and Bien Bien in 1992 ....Trainer Bobby Frankel said Starine has been retired. The 5-year-old mare won nine of 31 starts and earned $963,913. Among her wins was the Grade I Matriarch at Hollywood Park last year ....Tout Charmant, after being bred to Storm Cat, didn't stay in foal and has been returned to training with Ron McAnally

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

*--* The Facts * What: $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup * When: Fifth race Sunday, 3:30 p.m. (First post: 1:15 p.m.) * Distance: 1 1/4 miles * TV: ESPN2 * The Field: Macaneo (30-1), Momentum (4-1), Dollar Bill (6-1), Dig For It (15-1), Sky Jack (9-5), Milwaukee Brew (8-5), Out of Mind (10-1)

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