12/30/2003 12:00AM

Hollendorfer has 3 in Lafayette


ALBANY, Calif. - Leading trainer Jerry Hollendorfer begins his 2004 season with three of the seven entrants in the $75,000 Lafayette Handicap on New Year's Day at Golden Gate Fields.

Hollendorfer sends Bring Home Thegold, graded stakes winner Cappuchino, and Gold Ruckus, who has moved up the claiming ranks and won three straight since returning to the races after fracturing a shoulder in a race Feb. 17.

Cappuchino, who drew post 2, will probably contest the pace early in the one-mile Lafayette with Long Gone Con, who drew the rail.

Hollendorfer thinks Cappuchino will run well.

"I think he'll benefit from an off track, and he's pretty good at a mile," Hollendorfer said.

Truly a Judge, the runner-up in the Nov. 28 Forty Niner Handicap here, and Bring Home Thegold should head the second flight in front of Gold Ruckus. Aly Bubba and Mountain Minister, who just won his maiden race for a $32,000 tag, will be making late runs.

Gold Ruckus, now 6, is making his stakes debut, but he has never been sharper. Always a consistent performer, he has 9 wins from 26 starts and has earned $201,320. He is 5 for 16 on turf, with 4 wins in 10 main-track starts, and wet tracks don't seem to bother him - he's 2 for 5 on fast tracks and 2 for 5 on wet surfaces.

"He just handles every surface," said Hollendorfer. "That's a bit unusual. He can just do it."

Like his two stablemates, Gold Ruckus is well-suited to a mile, and has three wins, two seconds, and a third in six starts at the distance. Cappuchino has two wins and two thirds in six starts at one mile, and Bring Home Thegold has three wins and a third in five starts.

Gold Ruckus's shoulder fracture was a small one that did not require surgery. He was sent to a farm for six months.

Hollendorfer is pleased that Gold Ruckus is undefeated in his comeback races.

"They don't all come back and run well after being injured," Hollendorfer said.

Perhaps Gold Ruckus's quiet disposition made the comeback easier, but his success hasn't surprised Hollendorfer.

"We were thinking he could do what we've asked him to do," the trainer said.