12/13/2001 12:00AM

Fledgling rivalry in works


ALBANY, Calif. - Saturday's Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate Fields marks Round 2 in what could be a budding rivalry between two of northern California's better 2-year-olds.

Cappuchino, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, will try to win his second straight over Wild Celebration, trained by Bill Morey. Round 1 came in the six-furlong Golden Bear Stakes on Nov. 24 here, when Wild Celebration unexpectedly found himself on the lead and couldn't hold off Cappuchino down the stretch.

Cappuchino, who will be coupled with USS Tinosa, and Wild Celebration look as if they could be the ones to beat, along with Danthebluegrassman in the field of nine 2-year-olds going one mile.

"It wasn't the race we were hoping to see," Morey said of Wild Celebration's second-place finish in the Golden Bear. "We ended up on the front end, and this horse has never been on the front end. He'd always had a target to run for. He hung in there tough."

Wild Celebration was on the lead only because Cappuchino's stablemate, the speedy Twentythreejay-bird, had trouble getting out of the gate, then ducked in and bumped with Vito Corleone. Twentythreejay-bird rushed up and went head and head with Wild Celebration but never could get the lead.

Cappuchino, meanwhile, sat behind the dueling leaders and had them measured down the lane.

Saturday's race will be the first around two turns for both Cappuchino and Wild Celebration, but both trainers believe they will be better routers than sprinters.

"We're expecting this horse to handle two turns, even though he's never done it before," Morey said. "We know now he's capable of going on the front end, but we're hoping to see him stalking."

Hollendorfer is eager to send Cappuchino around two turns.

"That's what we've wanted to try from the beginning," he said. "He's training very well."

This is not the first time that Morey and Hollendorfer have had talented 2-year-olds at the same time. Four years ago, Morey had Dixie Dot Com and Hollendorfer had Event of the Year. Injuries prevented the two from meeting in northern California. When they finally met for the first time as 4-year-olds at Santa Anita, Dixie Dot Com defeated Event of the Year in the San Fernando.

Morey doesn't compare the current pair to Dixie Dot Com or Event of the Year, but he's excited by the budding rivalry.

"I think it's fun for the fans, like when Dixie and Event of the Year were here. We were kind of coming to a situation like this till we were injured. It's a fun deal. Fans look forward to it, and you follow the other guy's workouts heading into the race."

Hollendorfer recognizes the rivalry could generate interest, but he said it is important not to get wrapped up in looking at any race only in terms of two horses.

"Every race is a rivalry," he said. "You have to beat everybody. You can't pick one rival out that you need to beat."

His entry in the Golden Bear and his entry in the Gold Rush are examples.

Even Hollendorfer expected Twentythreejaybird to win the Golden Bear. While most eyes are on Cappuchino in the Gold Rush, Hollendorfer is not discounting USS Tinosa.

"He's a nice horse," Hollendorfer said. "He can run on any surface - mud, fast, turf."

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