01/30/2007 12:00AM

Bwana Bull is in the right hands

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ALBANY, Calif. - To the victors go the laughs, bragging rights, and stories.

So Dan Jelladian could laugh about the so-called lack of respect that Bwana Bull, who won Sunday's California Derby, received in Las Vegas last week.

Jelladian, a part owner of Bwana Bull, said the colt was 250-1 in Kentucky Derby futures betting at a Strip casino, but that when he attempted to bet $4,000, he was rebuffed.

"I could have made a million dollars," he said.

Jelladian and partners Mark DeDomenico, George Todaro, and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer know that it's a long way to Louisville, but when a talented colt wins his stakes debut by five lengths, it at least kindles the dream.

The group paid $140,000 at the 2005 Keeneland September yearling sale for Bwana Bull, a son of Holy Bull out of the Halo mare Shahalo.

Hollendorfer went to the Derby last year with Cause to Believe, who finished 13th. He ran fifth with Eye of the Tiger in 2003 and twice had runners knocked out of the race with injuries in the final eight days before the race: Globalize in 2000 and Event of the Year in 1998. He has also won the Kentucky Oaks twice, with Lite Light and Pike Place Dancer.

So Hollendorfer knows what it takes to get to the Derby, and he thinks Bwana Bull could take him there.

"If you want to go to the Derby, you've got to try now, because May comes up pretty quick," he said. "I don't see why we can't think about it right now. To me, it looks like he'll get 1 1/8 miles for sure."

Next on the agenda for Bwana Bull is piling up some graded stakes earnings so that he qualifies for the Derby. The Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows on March 10 seems a likely spot for Bwana Bull's next race.

"The El Camino Real Derby fits pretty well, but I haven't discussed it with my partners," Hollendorfer said.

Hollendorfer liked the way Bwana Bull relaxed behind his pacesetting stablemates Double Action and Candy's Bro, and the way the colt uncorked a powerful move into the lane. But what he liked best was the way the colt handled the track, rated good.

"He handled a track that proved difficult for some runners Saturday and today," Hollendorfer said on Sunday. "That he could get over this track when it's deeper is good, because the tracks back East are deeper. We ran into that problem last year with Cause to Believe, who was hesitant to run over that kind of track."

Stewards made the call

Jockey David Lopez picked up the mount on Bwana Bull in the California Derby when Russell Baze cracked a rib during a four-horse spill in the previous race. Lopez won that race, too, even though he lost his irons when he had to pull up Codi Dee to avoid the fallen horses in front of him.

The stewards allowed the result of the race to stand, although they had the authority to rule it a "non-race" because half the field didn't finish.

Steward Darrel McHargue said they made the race official because the winner may have been the most badly bothered horse in the field.

Chalk up two for northern California

Northern California celebrated two victories in the Sunshine Millions, with McCann's Mojave winning the $1 million Classic at Gulfsream, and becoming a millionaire in the process, and Smokey Stover winning the $300,000 Sprint at Santa Anita.

Trainer Steve Specht, who headed home from Gulfstream on Tuesday, said the 7-year-old McCann's Mojave came out of the race in good shape.

Saturday didn't start well for Specht, whose rental car was hit in an accident on the way to Gulfstream before the Classic.

"Maybe I got all my bad luck out of the way then," he said.

Smokey Stover was back in his stall at Golden Gate Fields less than 24 hours after the win, the biggest of his career. He was tired but seemed to come out of the race well despite racing for the second time in 20 days, said trainer Greg Gilchrist.

Gilchrist said a possible next start for Smokey Stover could be the Grade 3 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Sprint on March 11.

They know how it feels

Gilchrist said that he and Harry Aleo would be in contact with Barbaro's connections shortly. Aleo was the owner and Gilchrist the trainer of Lost in the Fog, who was euthanized last year after suffering from cancer.

"The friends of Barbaro were awfully good to us when we lost Lost in the Fog," Gilchrist said. "I can feel their pain. We need to tell them how proud we are of them and how proud we are of their horse.

"It's a great thing for the world to know that horses are not dollars-and-cents items for everyone involved. We care deeply about these animals."