12/15/2005 12:00AM

Early audition for stars of '06

Bob and John, shown with exercise rider Larry Damore, comes into the Hollywood Futurity off an impressive effort in the Real Quiet Stakes.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - With Breeders' Cup Juvenile hero Stevie Wonderboy assured of the title as champion 2-year-old male, Saturday's Grade 1 has been reduced from the race that decided the 2004 championship to a preview of California's promising colts for 2006.

Judging from the field gathered for the $401,250 Futurity, there will be plenty of candidates capable of challenging Stevie Wonderboy at Santa Anita in coming months.

The Hollywood Futurity is led by Bob and John, who won the Real Quiet Stakes by six lengths on Nov. 26, but was disqualified and placed third for causing interference in early stretch.

Bob and John will face a stern challenge in the Futurity, run at 1 1/16 miles. The other leading contenders in the field of eight are Brother Derek, who won the Grade 2 Norfolk Stakes and was fourth behind Stevie Wonderboy in the BC Juvenile; A.P. Warrior, second in the Norfolk Stakes; and the unbeaten stakes winner Your Tent or Mine.

Trainer Bob Baffert was furious about the stewards' decision to disqualify Bob and John, but was later philosophical about the outcome. After all, Bob and John did cross the wire first by six lengths.

"You wanted him to do it in that kind of fashion," Baffert said of the performance. "He's still learning. They all are. You hope he keeps moving forward. I'm excited about it."

With the exception of Your Tent or Mine, many of the top contenders have faced each other in recent starts.

A.P. Warrior beat Bob and John by four lengths in a one-mile allowance race at Santa Anita on Nov. 4. Brother Derek beat A.P. Warrior by three-quarters of a length in the Norfolk Stakes.

Your Tent or Mine is facing all of them for the first time. Trained by Neil Drysdale, Your Tent or Mine beat maidens in his debut at Del Mar in September and returned to win the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue Stakes at seven furlongs here on Nov. 19, drawing off late. Of the four leading contenders, Your Tent or Mine is the only starter trying two turns for the first time in the Futurity.

"I think A.P. Warrior is the horse to beat," Baffert said. "He handled us pretty good the other day, but hopefully we needed the race."

Trainer Eoin Harty has been aiming A.P. Warrior to the Futurity since he abandoned plans to start in the BC Juvenile. Owned by Stan Fulton, A.P. Warrior has two wins in four starts. His only poor effort was a sixth in the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity when he ran near the front and faded in the final furlong.

In his last two starts, A.P. Warrior has stalked the pace.

"I don't think he wants to be on the lead," Harty said. "I want to teach him to relax. He has a good turn of foot. He always breaks so sharp and he finds himself on the lead.

"I don't want to see a repeat of the Del Mar Futurity where he was dog-tired at the eighth pole. I want to see him finish with enthusiasm and with something in the tank."

Brother Derek was 56-1 in the BC Juvenile. Owned by Cecil Peacock, Brother Derek stalked the leaders for the first six furlongs of the Juvenile and got within a length of the lead on the turn, but faded through the stretch to finish 8 1/2 lengths behind Stevie Wonderboy.

"He showed more speed than we wanted," trainer Dan Hendricks said. "He had a good race. Going around one turn, that's not his style. His style is stalking speed, not pressing speed. I'm optimistic that he's better going two turns than one turn."

Like many of his colleagues, Hendricks sees the Futurity as an opportunity to prepare for 2006. Hendricks had more confidence after watching Brother Derek gallop and have a schooling session in the starting gate at Santa Anita on Thursday.

"He's really acting like a pro," Hendricks said. "Everything seems right."