01/08/2003 1:00AM

Derby will draw big field


ALBANY, Calif. - A full field seems in the making for Saturday's Grade 3 $100,000 Golden Gate Derby.

One day before Thursday's draw, 11 3-year-olds were committed to run in the 1 1/16-mile race, and a 12th was likely.

Trainer Jeff Bonde will be represented by Standard Setter and said last weekend that he would run either Mr. Technique or D's Bertrando in the race. Now Mr. Technique is out.

"Mr. Technique won't run," Bonde said Wednesday. "I worked him seven-eighths today [1:26.60 at Bay Meadows]. He wasn't quite ready for a race."

Bonde would not commit to running D's Bertrando, though, saying he would make a decision at entry time Thursday. D's Bertrando, seventh as the favorite in the California Breeders' Championship at Santa Anita on Dec. 26, worked five furlongs in 59.80 seconds Sunday.

Three stakes winners, Buddy Gil, Spensive, and Taliano, will run, while two stakes-placed runners, Always Remember and Standard Setter, are also expected. Always Remember missed by a head to Spensive in the one-mile Gold Rush here on Dec. 14, while Standard Setter was second in both the Malcolm Anderson and the Everett Nevin-Alameda County Futurity last summer.

"I guess we didn't scare anyone away," quipped Art Sherman, the trainer of Always Remember.

The size of the field is not surprising to trainers or racing officials.

"I think a lot of it is timing," Golden Gate Fields stakes coordinator Grant Baker said. "A lot of horses have broken their maidens by now, and this is a good spot for horses bred to route.

"It's a good spot for a good quality allowance horse to meet stakes competition but not meet the toughest colts on the West Coast. Being a graded stakes, the money earned will count if they do advance on to the Kentucky Derby."

The race has produced one Kentucky Derby winner, Real Quiet in 1998.

The Kentucky Derby is still a long way off, and the connections of most in this field may not really be dreaming of the first Saturday in May.

"People are trying to find out if they can be competitive in races like this or if they just have allowance horses or claimers," said Bill Patterson, assistant to Chuck Jenda, who is the trainer of Buddy Gil.

Patterson said he wasn't surprised by the size of the field.

"One month ago [in the Gold Rush], Buddy Gil and D's Bertrando were considered to be top prospects, but both are coming off terrible efforts. Why not take a shot?"

Sherman, whose Always Remember took the lead in the stretch in the Gold Rush, agreed. "There are no monsters," he said. "We're all looking to see if they'll go a route."