Craig Dollase ‘Sprints’ to racing’s pinnacle

October 23, 2001 9:23 AM
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Horse racing was all Greek to Craig Dollase until Itsallgreektome came along. Until then, he was a typical teenager, focused on playing football and basketball in junior high and high school.

“I couldn’t get him interested in horses, even though he was raised on a horse farm,” says his father, 64-year-old trainer Wally Dollase. “He was in the eighth grade when we came to Arcadia (from defunct Rio Vista Farm near Atascadero). He played sports in junior high and at Arcadia High School. That was his big interest at that time. Then, in 1990, I got Itsallgreektome and his interests changed.”

Itsallgreektome won an Eclipse Award as best male turf horse of 1990 and was second in two Breeders’ Cup races, the Mile in 1990 and the Turf in 1991.

“Craig studied business at Citrus College for a while, but when Itsallgreektome got going good, we were racing all over the country and I needed Craig’s help badly,” Wally said. “He became my assistant. But first he had to give up football and basketball. Craig had a ton of experience at the farm before we put him to work at the track.”

That experience has paid off. Craig took out his trainer’s license in July, 1995. In 1998, at age 27, he became the youngest trainer to win a Breeders’ Cup race when he saddled Reraise to win the Sprint. Craig, now 30, hopes to win the Sprint a second time with a powerful stretch runner named Swept Overboard at Belmont Park on Saturday.

“They’re two different type of horses,” Craig said of Reraise and Swept Overboard. “Reraise was helter-skelter right out of the gate and won the Sprint wire-to-wire. Swept Overboard obviously needs a fast pace, quick fractions, and he got that in the Ancient Title.”

Swept Overboard, a $700,000 purchase from the Barretts dispersal sale of the late Marshall Naify’s 505 Farms in July of 2000, rallied from at least 10 lengths last to win the Ancient Title Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 6, upsetting last year’s Sprint winner and Eclipse champion, Kona Gold, by a convincing 2½ lengths.

Swept Overboard was getting 11 pounds from Kona Gold, (127 to 116), but Dollase is confident the Florida-bred son of End Sweep can handle Kona Gold at equal weights. Both carry 126 pounds in the Sprint. Swept Overboard worked five furlongs in a bullet 58 seconds flat at Hollywood Park last Wednesday, best time of 19 at the distance.

“I’m real positive about the Breeders’ Cup,” Dollase said. “He’s coming up to it real well. With plenty of pace in there (Squirtle Squirt, Caller One, Xtra Heat, etc.), I like my chances. He will need a trouble-free trip, because he comes from off the pace. His last two races before the Ancient Title were paceless and kind of took him out of his style. When he’s up too close, it takes away his (stretch) kick. The faster they go in the Breeders’ Cup, the better for me.”

Swept Overboard, a gray 4-year-old who has never been out of the money in 13 career starts (6-5-2), wasn’t a stretch runner until Dollase got him. The colt displayed daunting speed in his first two races as a 2-year-old. He broke his maiden by 3½ lengths in a 5½-furlong dash after opening an eight-length lead at the half-mile mark.

“He was a lot faster early on, but he ran with blinkers, and I took them off,” Dollase said. “I didn’t believe in that. I tried to get him to rate a little bit.”

Dollase, who has one of the highest winning percentages among Southern California trainers, used the knowledge imparted from his father in selecting Swept Overboard for owner J. Paul Reddam.

“I liked his consistency,” Craig said. “To look at him, he’s not a real imposing horse. But he’s very athletic, has a lot of spirit to him. My owner told me, ”˜Go buy me a race horse there,’ so I picked him out. He looked like the real deal. He’s really matured and he’s coming into his own right now.”

The Dollases are a racing family. In addition to Craig and Wally, Wally’s wife, Cincy is the operation’s bookkeeper; their daughter, Aimee, is Wally’s assistant; and daughter Michelle is the wife of jockey Corey Nakatani. Wally and Craig are the only father and son trainers to win Breeders’ Cup races. Wally won the Distaff with Jewel Princess in 1996.

“Winning (the Sprint) with Reraise was quite an accomplishment, especially at such a young age,” Craig admitted. “But I’ve really worked around a lot of good horses all my life, being an assistant to my dad and all, so I kind of knew what to expect. I wasn’t overwhelmed by it and took it in stride.”

Just like he will take it in stride if Swept Overboard wins on Saturday.

“The horse hasn’t raced over the Belmont track, so I don’t know how he’ll handle it, but he seems to take everything in stride,” Dollase said. “He acts like he can run on most surfaces. Eventually, I’d like to go two turns with this horse. Right now, we’ll stick to sprinting.”

Good luck to everyone this Saturday!


Ed Golden’s Breeders’ Cup Selections

DISTAFF

1””Tranquility Lake: Pace scenario, shorter distance favors consistent mare.

2””Flute: Needed last, one to beat with better trip.

3””Exogenous: Belongs with these, but careful handling in stretch a must.

Longshot: Starrer

JUVENILE FILLIES

1””Bella Bellucci: Short on experience, but Drysdale knows what he’s doing.

2””You: Impressive Frizette win, but what was behind her?

3””Take Charge Lady: Unbeaten, unsung and can handle distance.

Longshot: Shesastonecoldfox

MILE

1””Val Royal: Canani super-high on this one, primed for top performance.

2””Affirmed Success: Loves track and a gem of consistency.

3””Forbidden Apple: 7 for 11 over track, last had to help.

Longshot: Irish Prize.

SPRINT

1””Swept Overboard: Never better, gets ideal pace scenario, weight no problem.

2””El Corredor: Baffert win machine (7 for 9) will be motoring late.

3””Kona Gold: Defending champ game, but lost a step at age seven.

Longshot: Delaware Township

FILLY & MARE TURF 1””England’s Legend: Must hold off Lailani with propitious move.

2””Lailani: Beat top one in U.S. debut, has winning attitude (7 for 9).

3””Starine: Closed too late vs. top pair in Flower Bowl at same distance.

Longshot: Kalypso Katie

JUVENILE

1””Officer: Don’t know what his critics have been watching. Baffert says "they’re jealous. They hope he’s not that good." P.S. He is.

2””Siphonic: Showed exceptional maturity in Lane’s End win in only second start.

3””Came Home: Missing Norfolk due to injury could be costly, but in good hands.

Longshot: French Assault

TURF

1””Sakhee: Toast of Paree after smashing Arc win. Wows ”˜em in U.S. debut

2””With Anticipation: Consistent gelding can run all day.

3””Mutamam: Distance, weight no worry for English-bred win machine (11 of 20).

Longshot: Timboroa

CLASSIC

1””Aptitude: Frankel gets off 0-for 36 Breeders’ Cup schneid.

2””Fantastic Light: Godolphin star has earned $6.3 million, makes U.S., dirt debut.

3””Galileo: Out to make amends after suffering first loss, to Fantastic Light.

BEST BET: Swept Overboard.