12/12/2002 1:00AM

Gold Rush fever focused on two hot 2's


ALBANY, Calif. - Distance and the likelihood of an off track will test seven 2-year-olds competing in Saturday's $75,000-added Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate Fields.

But the primary obstacles for most of the field are D's Bertrando, the likely odds-on choice, and Buddy Gil, who won the six-furlong Golden Bear Stakes on a dull track and who should receive heavy support as well.

D's Bertrando flashed good early speed while winning his maiden in his second start and could go wire-to-wire here, although he might let Quietly Quick or Allwood set the pace. D's Bertrando earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure in his maiden win, the highest by a 2-year-old this year.

Buddy Gil drew post 7 and may face the possibility of racing wide on the first turn. However he showed more speed than anticipated in the Golden Bear and may be able to avoid being hung too wide.

Only two of the entrants, Buddy Gil and Always Remember, have attempted the one-mile distance. Both won their only attempts at a mile, Buddy Gil in a maiden race, and Always Remember in a $25,000 claimer in his last start.

A third member of the cast, Spensive, has gone two turns, finishing third in the 6 1/2-furlong Beau Brummel at Fairplex.

Heavy rains are forecast for Saturday, and only two entrants have run on anything but a fast track. Quietly Quick was third in an allowance sprint in the slop Nov. 8. D's Bertrando graduated the next day on a track labeled good.

Asked about the possibility of an off track, Jeff Bonde, the trainer of D's Bertrando, said, "That's probably his edge. Bertrandos seem to handle off tracks well."

This is a time of year for rapid, often overnight, improvement for 2-year-olds, and other trainers may figure this is the right time to take their shots at the top two.

Allwood, who graduated in a $32,000 maiden claimer, showed major improvement in his next start, earning a 91 Beyer that is third highest in the field behind the top two picks.

Always Remember won when stretched out, albeit for a claiming price.

Natural Balance was second behind Buddy Gil in the Golden Bear, and Quietly Quick beat Buddy Gil in his debut.

Spensive, the lone Southern California shipper, comes from the Bob Baffert barn and will be ridden by Julie Krone. He has turned in three straight Beyers in the 80's for a stable that won this race with Danthebluegrassman last year.

Still, there's no reason to believe the favorites will be beaten.

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