08/29/2001 12:00AM

Field size concern lingers


SAN MATEO, Calif. - After a tough summer at the fairs because of a horse shortage, Greg Brent, racing secretary at Bay Meadows, is expressing optimism concerning the track's 52-day 2001 fall meeting that will get under way Friday night.

"We're going to have to work early in the meet for sure," to fill races, Brent said. "A lot of people still have horses out of town, and we have an overlap with the California State Fair at Sacramento the first four days.

"But from Sept. 7 through the 24th we'll be going against Pomona," said Brent, noting that Southern California track doesn't have a turf course.

"Meanwhile, our trainers will be bringing horses back from Del Mar and other places, plus we've had a lot of interest from people [at Emerald Downs]. That meeting ends Sept. 17, but those people will be arriving slowly beginning this weekend.

"I think we're going to be fine, and will be able to fill races in a lot of categories we were having a hard time filling before."

Jerry Hollendorfer, northern California's perennial leading trainer, currently has 95 horses in northern California, 50 at Arlington Park in Chicago, and six at Del Mar.

Through Sunday, Hollendorfer was the leading trainer at Arlington Park with 24 winners, compared with 18 for Wayne Catalano. He said what he does with those 50 horses depends upon a lot of factors, primarily whether races are filling at a satisfactory rate at Bay Meadows.

Arlington Park does not end until Oct. 28, but Hollendorfer may begin bringing some of those horses back well before then. Asked if he will leave enough horses there to contend for the training title, he said by phone from the Chicago track, "If it fits into our overall plan I will. But that's not as important as other factors. I would like to be able to say I'm bringing everything back to California, but right now I can't say that for certain."

Hollendorfer has been maintaining a grueling schedule all summer, and this weekend he plans to spend time both here and at Del Mar. In September, he plans to squeeze in a trip to Keeneland for the yearling sale.

Jeff Bonde is another northern California-based trainer who has been earning frequent flier miles. He has 38 horses here now, but still has 15 at Monmouth, whose meet ends Sunday, and he plans to keep them back east and run at The Meadowlands through mid-September.

Brent Sumja divided his stable during the summer and may have become a fixture on the East Coast, although he plans to continue to maintain a string of 20 or more in northern California with assistant Aggie Anderson.

"I came here with 23 horses," Sumja said by phone from Delaware Park, "and now, due solely to horses brought to me by new clients, I'm up to 48. I'm winning at almost 20 per cent, and a lot of the wins have been in allowance races. Most important, I haven't entered a race that didn't fill."

Sumja said he is excited about the sire Corslew, who stands at Rancho San Miguel, which is owned by his client Nancy Clark. He will be getting many Corslews, and that is the main reason he wants to keep a stable in northern California.

The meet's biggest event is the $200,000 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap, to be run Sept. 22.