12/29/2005 12:00AM

Early trial for derby

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - An optional $40,000 claimer for 2-year-olds on Saturday may give Bay Meadows bettors an early look at part of the field for the Grade 3, $250,000 El Camino Real Derby on Jan. 29.

Six colts go one mile in the race, and the two who seem most capable of taking the next step to the derby are Bold Chieftain, an impressive wire-to-wire maiden winner sprinting in his second start, and late-running Passive Income.

Both are bred to handle the distance. Bold Chieftain is a son of the Seattle Slew horse Chief Seattle. Passive Income is by High Yield, a son of Storm Cat.

has shown an ability to close sprinting and should be able to sit off Bold Chieftain and get first run in the lane.

Six 2-year-old fillies will go six furlongs in the co-feature in what could be an even better race than the one-mile event for the colts.

, a $400,000 purchase, and trouble-prone Insurmountable, a $210,000 purchase, are the ones to beat in a race that also includes Mama Lula, first and second in her two career starts; Acceleration, who is stakes placed; and Hybird Diablo, who has never finished off the board in five career starts.

Elusive Air was second to the talented Seam Seeker in her debut. She hopped at the start and was well back during the opening half-mile before making up eight lengths in the final furlong of a five-furlong race. She romped in the slop in her second start, winning by two lengths at six furlongs.

won her debut at Solano and returned three months later to face highly regarded Victorina. Insurmountable bobbled at the break but rushed up to take the lead before tiring late and fading to third behind Victorina and Mama Lula. In her last start, she was boxed in behind Seam Seeker on the turn and had to check repeatedly, but closed nicely in the lane for second in front of Hybird Diablo.

* A petition circulated by a group that does not want Bay Meadows Race Track to close failed to get enough signatures to force a ballot referendum challenging the San Mateo City Council's agreement to allow the Bay Meadows Land Company to develop track land for housing and commercial development. The petition needed 4,661 valid signatures but fell 136 short.