01/26/2007 1:00AM

California Derby early test of talent


ALBANY, Calif. - Sunday's $150,000 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields will give trainers Jerry Hollendorfer, Craig Dollase, and Bob Baffert a measuring stick for their 3-year-olds.

Hollendorfer trains three of the six in the race: Bwana Bull, Double Action, and Candy's Bro. Baffert trains Chief's Magic and Craig Dollase trains Boutrous. Alex Paszkeicz sends out the longshot Cover Magic.

Boutrous comes into the race with two straight victories at Sunday's 1 1/16-mile distance. Dollase says added distance will be no problem for Boutrous, a Tiznow colt who looks remarkably like his sire.

Owner Mike Shustek paid $75,000 for Boutrous as a yearling, and that now looks like a bargain.

"The owner wanted a Kentucky-bred who could go a mile and a quarter," Dollase said. "He didn't breeze that well, which is why we got him that cheap.

"He had a big, long, effortless stride to him. You could tell he'd be a two-turn horse."

Dollase considered running Boutrous in the 1 1/8-mile Sham Stakes at Santa Anita next Saturday, but the Sham is worth $50,000 less than the California Derby and, Dollase said, "we want to see if he can ship, too."

This is the time of year when there are lots of races for 3-year-olds," he said. "If he can handle shipping that much the better."

Boutrous drew post 5, just inside Bwana Bull, who seems the best of Hollendorfer's uncoupled trio.

Bwana Bull sprinted three times before winning his maiden in his first start around two turns.

"We realized from the beginning, he would not be a sprinter, but we tried to get some foundation in him," Hollendorfer said.

"He's done better every time he's run. I never lost confidence. I felt absolutely his talent would come out."

All three Hollendorfer runners have been nominated to the Triple Crown.

Chief's Magic looks like the speed of the race, although both Candy's Bro and Double Action have flashed speed sprinting.

Bwana Bull has the ability to stalk, while Cover Magic and Boutrous will be coming from off the pace.

Hollendorfer said he will study past performances closely before formulating a race strategy for each of his runners.

Not Dollase, who knows Boutrous will be making one run late.

"He's shown he's been able to come from last, even against a slow pace," Dollase said. "He'll be coming that last quarter."