04/11/2002 12:00AM

Call it a Derby prep

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - The key phrase heard in racing this weekend will be "Kentucky Derby prep."

The term will be applied to the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, and Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn.

But it can also be applied to Saturday's $150,000 California Derby at Bay Meadows. The connections of three colts in the field of eight for the 1 1/8-mile race have said they will consider going to Kentucky with a victory Saturday.

The field, from the rail out, is: Captain Squire, Tracemark, Goodnews Bay, Cappuchino, Justastorm, Dial a Hero, Make the Deal, and Lawn Mower.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who will run an entry of Cappuchino and Lawn Mower, would consider a Kentucky Derby run for Cappuchino.

Trainer Craig Dollase said he would consider entering Tracemark. Captain Squire's owners, Robert Bone and Jeffrey Diener of Sacramento, say they will send their colt to Kentucky if he wins the California Derby.

"The way the picture is this year, you have to weigh all your options and keep everything open," Hollendorfer said.

"The horse that was the absolute favorite three weeks ago [Repent] is now out. You have to weigh the decision. You talk with the owners. Some might want to take the chance, some might not."

Derby starters are determined based on money won in graded stakes races. The California Derby is not graded.

That plays against Captain Squire, winner of the $100,000 Turf Paradise Derby but who has no graded stakes earnings. It could also hurt Tracemark, whose only graded stakes earnings is $15,000 for finishing fourth in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.

Cappuchino has earned $25,000 in graded stakes after finishing second by a nose to Danthebluegrassman in the Grade 3 Golden Gate Derby.

Cappuchino returned to win the Golden State Mile but was sixth in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on March 9 in his last start.

"Cappuchino didn't like the track that day, but I'm not using that as an excuse, just a reason," Hollendorfer said.

Hollendorfer does not believe Cappuchino bounced - regressed after a tough race - in the El Camino.

"I haven't gotten into that theory," he said. "I don't think people run horses unless they're ready to run."

Hollendorfer believes Cappuchino will be ready to run Saturday.

"He's just been training really well," he said.

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