01/24/2008 1:00AM

Hansen plays it safe with two


ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Roger Hansen wants to do things the right way for a pair of talented 3-year-olds in his barn.

He entered stakes-placed Saipan along with stakes-winning Vadheim in Saturday's Golden Gate Fields feature, a $32,000 optional claimer at six furlongs, instead of running in Sunday's California Derby at 1 1/16 miles, even though he nominated both runners to the derby.

Saipan, a Kjell Qvale homebred who is a half-brother of Tribesman - holder of the six-furlong Tapeta track record at Golden Gate Fields - was a troubled third at this level in his second start, on Dec. 15, and was moved up to second on a disqualification. A 3-year-old Benchmark gelding, he had won his debut, and he finished third, beaten only one length, in the Jan. 5 Stinson Beach Stakes at six furlongs.

Hansen wants to proceed carefully with the gelding, which is one reason he entered him Saturday.

Saipan's future is probably going to be routing, but when entry time for the California Derby came Thursday, Hansen decided to stay in the sprint race rather than pick a stakes for the gelding's first try around two turns.

Hansen wanted Saipan to run this weekend because he wanted him to get one more race over his home track before Bay Meadows opens on Feb. 4.

"He seems to relax nicely," Hansen said. "Going from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles would have been a big jump, but I think he can do it. He has a ton of speed and always had worked fast, but we've worked with him to conserve his speed."

Saipan sat off quick fractions and finished well in the Stinson Beach. Ican'tremember, who set the pace in the Stinson Beach before fading to fourth, is also entered Saturday and drew the rail, which means he'll be gunning early again.

Saipan drew the outside post, which gives him the opportunity to place himself where he wants.

"We might ask Saipan to show a bit more speed," Hansen said.

Vadheim, who won the Harvest Futurity at Fresno as a maiden, will also run Saturday after a pair of tries at one mile.

"He seems to be a late-running sprinter," Hansen said. "But this is a good time to know it, because we'll spot him in sprints now."

Ican'tremember and Thundering Justice, who was disqualified from second to third behind Saipan in the Dec. 15 race, could prove tough. Thundering Justice was just claimed by leading trainer Jerry Hollendorfer from a victory in a $25,000 claimer.

Savo Island, who has won two straight, and Cotati, who has hit the board in all four starts, make Saturday's race a wide-open affair.