11/23/2001 12:00AM

Modestly bred Sea to See dives into the deep waters

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - For a colt whose stallion stands for just $2,000, Sea to See has been something of an overachiever this year, winning a minor stakes at Bay Meadows and earning $140,728.

On Sunday, Sea to See faces his toughest test in the $500,000 Hollywood Derby at Hollywood Park. By Al Mamoon, Sea to See is the lone California-bred in the field of 14, and is trying to become the first horse born in this state to win the Hollywood Derby since Slew the Dragon scored in a division in 1985.

Sea to See's trainer, Bill Delia, is quick to point out that any field that includes Startac, the winner of the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park last August, and Blue Steller, who beat Sea to See in the Bay Meadows Derby on Nov. 4, will be difficult to beat.

Still, Delia is ready to take a chance with a colt who seldom turns in a bad race. "He's there every time and doesn't get beat far," Delia said. "He's a difficult horse to ride. If you take a hold of him, he can throw his head around.

"I think he's a better horse if we can get him covered up and off the pace. It sounds easy, but he's headstrong. If you get him on the lead, he's not as good."

A winner of 4 of 13 starts, Sea to See has not been worse than fourth in nine starts this year. He won in the Half Moon Bay Stakes at Bay Meadows on Sept. 29, and followed with a third in the Bay Meadows Derby. Earlier this year at Hollywood Park, Sea to See was fourth in the Grade 2 Will Rogers Handicap, losing by 1 1/2 lengths after steadying on the final turn.

Sea to See races for Ronelle Heller, who bred the colt with her late husband Bart, who died last August. (The Hellers co-owned the millionaire Dixie Dot Com, who was recently retired to stud in California.)

The Hellers campaigned Sea to See's dam, Sea Caylee Run, who is by Desert Wine. Now 9, See Caylee Run was a winner at 3 and has three foals. Sea to See is Al Mamoon's lone stakes winner this year. A millionaire as a top older horse on turf, Al Mamoon stands at Cardiff Stud Farm in Creston for $2,000. The stallion's top 3-year-old could make that seem like more of a bargain with a strong showing on Sunday.

o An auction of stallion seasons on Dec. 11 will include breedings to top California stallions such as In Excess, Cee's Tizzy, and Free House. The auction will be conducted from 6 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 11 with proceeds going to the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association's Political Action Committee, which supports legislative issues. There are 29 seasons available. Other prominent stallions on offer include Comic Strip, Helmsman, Olympio, Smokester, and Valid Wager. The seasons sell without guarantee. In addition to bids being placed by phone at (626) 445-7800 or (800) 753-2822, bids can be mailed or e-mailed to the CTBA.

o The retirement last week of Tiznow, the two-time winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic, has left Native Desert as the top California-bred money earner in serious training. Native Desert was to start in Saturday's $500,000 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park, trying to improve on his record of 19 wins in 61 starts and earnings of $1,583,891. Native Desert's recent win in the California Cup Mile on Nov. 3 left him 11th overall on the all-time list. Tiznow tops the list with earnings of $6,427,830.

Two horses above Native Desert - General Challenge and Budroyale - are sidelined with injury, but could return. General Challenge was turned out in July with an unspecified injury. In October, Budroyale was turned out for 90 days but was expected to return to training, according to trainer Ted West.