04/09/2002 11:00PM

Dollase high on Tracemark

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Trainer Craig Dollase thinks he might have the California Derby winner in his barn - Tracemark, who will prove him right or wrong Saturday in the $150,000, 1 1/8-mile California Derby at Bay Meadows.

"He's a warrior," Dollase said.

Tracemark, who ran in the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile and the Grade 2 Norfolk Stakes last year while still a maiden, has long been highly regarded by owner Edward T. McGrath. He was nominated to the Triple Crown long before winning a maiden race at 1 1/16 miles March 3 at Santa Anita.

Dollase took over the training of Tracemark this year, after Tracemark had run 10 times as a 2-year-old for Michael Harte.

"He's very good-looking but has only a medium build," Dollase said. "He had a feisty attitude but was gelded and has a nice disposition."

Tracemark ran third, beaten a neck in a one-mile maiden race on the turf in his first start for Dollase. He then won a maiden race by 4 1/2 lengths. Two weeks later, he ran fourth in the Grade 2 San Felipe.

"It was a quick turnaround, but he raced creditably," Dollase said. "[Jockey Alex] Solis said he didn't care much for the dirt he got in his face when he was inside, but once he moved out, he made a nice run and passed some horses."

There was talk that Tracemark might be supplemented to the Santa Anita Derby, but Dollase and McGrath thought the California Derby was a wiser choice.

"We're trying to take an easy route if we are going to the big dance," said Dollase.

Dollase took into consideration the extra week since the San Felipe and the easier competition of the California Derby.

There are many spots for 3-year-olds to make money, but Dollase might consider the Kentucky Derby if Tracemark runs a big race and "moves forward."

He thinks the Cal Derby distance will be no problem, and also thinks Tracemark will be one of the favorites. "He's always run well," Dollase said. "He's consistent, a real hard-knocker."

Friday feature

A well-matched field of eight older fillies and mares will go in Friday's six-furlong feature.

Miz Kool, who won five consecutive starts while working her way up the claiming ladder at Golden Gate Fields, and Honey Mustard Girl, who won four races at Golden Gate Fields, will both attempt to carry their form across the bay.

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