04/14/2004 12:00AM

Cal Derby ideal for Trieste's Honor


ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Mike Puype hasn't had Kentucky Derby dreams for Trieste's Honor, but he has focused on the California Derby for some time.

"It comes in under the radar," he said about Saturday's $100,000, 1 1/8-mile race at Bay Meadows. "It's nongraded, and it's two weeks before the Kentucky Derby."

For that reason, the field will be small. Only five 3-year-olds were pointing for it at midweek, and only one other was listed as a possible last-minute entry.

The race may lack glamor and numbers, but several of the late-developing youngsters could use it as a springboard to a strong summer campaign.

That's what Puype hopes to do with Trieste's Honor, who has won two straight since being shipped to northern California.

Trieste's Honor was 0 for 5 in Southern California before winning his maiden by seven lengths at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 14. He returned one month later to win a first-level allowance race.

"I was looking at the pps, and, except for Capitano, my colt has run against the toughest competition," said Puype, whose colt trailed such horses as Quintons Gold Rush, Wimbledon, Preachinatthebar, and Boomzeeboom down south.

"My colt looks the part and gallops the part in the morning," Puype said. "I hope he will start applying himself to be that kind of horse.

"I sent him up north to develop. He hadn't been ready to get enough out of his races down south, so I tried to bring him on slower, develop him later, and have him be a better horse this summer.

"This breaks well for me. I have a horse ready to run and have been pointing to this race. This is the right move. It's perfect to try a nongraded stakes after winning an allowance race."

Puype expects Trieste's Honor to be a pace factor again Saturday and believes the 1 1/8-mile distance will work in his favor. No one in the field has run that far yet.

"I wonder if the others will like it as much as him," Puype said.

* Seven 3-year-olds meet in Friday's feature, a $25,000 claimer at one mile on the turf. Master Heat, the lone turf winner in the field, raced just eight days ago, when he was an even fourth against better.