06/06/2001 12:00AM

King of Bay Area has his fleet ready to fire


STICKNEY, Ill. - Some horsemen get nervous shipping one horse across a state by van. Try moving 44 head at the same time from the Bay Area in California to Chicago.

That was exactly the massive undertaking trainer Jerry Hollendorfer's stable went through last week, as Hollendorfer, the perennial leading trainer in northern California, readied his newly formed Chicago string for the opening of Arlington's meet June 13. All 44 horses flew together on a DC-9 transport plane, which alone cost almost $80,000 and occasioned no end of logistical maneuvering.

But the horses are bedded down and in steady training now, despite a scramble to find ample stable help after their arrival. And, no doubt, Hollendorfer won't take long in asserting his presence here. Already, a handful of early arrivals from the stable have won three of their four starts at the Hawthorne meet.

Hollendorfer has no rival on the northern California circuit, but is looking to branch out his operation and will run a string in Chicago for the first time. Andy Wilson, one of two Hollendorfer assistants here, said the operation would still have about 80 head in training in California this summer.

"Many owners were ready to branch out, and Jerry's been thinking about doing something like this," said Wilson, who has worked with Hollendorfer for five years. "There are more opportunities, and having turf in the summer will really help."

In northern California, while Bay Meadows and Golden Gate are closed, there is no turf course available for part of the summer, forcing barns like Hollendorfer's to ship to Southern California or sit on their turf runners.

Hollendorfer also has hired Randy Martin as a local assistant. Until he took the job, Martin had been training on his own here in Chicago, most recently overseeing a private string for owner Marco Bommarito.

"I met Jerry at the end of April, and flew out to California for a week to learn the operation," Martin said. "I'm really excited. I think we have a bright future."

Hollendorfer's string includes several unraced horses, both 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds, that the barn hopes will run through some allowance conditions during the meet. "We have a few that could end up as any kind of horse," Wilson said.

Wilson also said that Globalize, who last raced in the 2000 Belmont Stakes, is nearing a return to the races. The winner of the Grade 2 Spiral Stakes last year, Globalize was slated to breeze Thursday and should start soon.

Lundy enters two turf contenders

There is still the matter of three final days at the Hawthorne spring meet to be considered before attention shifts to Arlington Heights next week for the next five months.

Turf racing at Hawthorne on Tuesday and Wednesday was scrapped because of a wet course, but no rain was forecast for the area Thursday and Friday. Three of Friday's races are carded for grass, and management and horseplayers alike will be happier if they stay there.

The best race of the day, the eighth, is at nine furlongs on grass, and it drew a solid field of 11 fillies and mares. Trainer Dick Lundy has entered two horses in the race, hoping to break out of a year-long slump that has seen him fail to win a race in 23 starts.

Lundy had a nice year last season and his dry spell is sure to end soon - perhaps as early as Friday. Both of his horses, Julies Love Letter and Instinct, are viable contenders in this second-level allowance.

It was Julies Love Letter who appeared to be the superior runner last summer at Arlington. She won consecutive turf starts and was promptly thrown into Grade 1 company, finishing a respectable fifth in the Garden City Breeders' Cup at Belmont.

But while Julies Love Letter has struggled this year - she has yet to hit the board in three starts - Instinct has continued to develop and is preferred in this spot. Instinct has finished second in all three of her starts this spring, including an off-the-turf allowance at Keeneland late last month. She has met better horses than she faces today and handled nine furlongs, the main concern being a poor draw in post 11.

Gerri's Auto Bee poses an upset threat, as she ran well last time out in her first grass race and figures to make a clear lead Friday.