11/02/2001 12:00AM

Owens sending Top Hit on grass again in BM Derby


At a glance, Top Hit's turf form does not make him a top contender for Sunday's $100,000 Bay Meadows Derby.

He finished fifth in the minor Tempe Handicap on turf last March at Turf Paradise, his only outing on the surface. Since then, his career has blossomed with a win in the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby on the main track at Remington Park and placings in two Grade 3 stakes at Hollywood Park.

With a late-season emphasis on turf for 3-year-olds in California, trainer Kory Owens is willing to try Top Hit again on that surface, with an eye on the $500,000 Hollywood Derby on Nov. 25. "When I ran him the other time on turf, he didn't know what he was doing," Owens said. "He blew the first turn, but it wasn't that he didn't handle the turf."

After the win in Oklahoma, Owens considered the Ohio Derby for Top Hit, but decided to pass. He intended to run in the Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park, but said he was unable to make flight arrangements.

Top Hit, who will be ridden by Joey Castro, drew the outside post of nine in the Bay Meadows Derby. Run over about 1 1/8 miles, the Derby features a mix of invaders from Southern California facing a solid group of local stakes winners.

The probable favorite is Blue Steller, who has raced twice in this country.

A French import now trained by Bobby Frankel, Blue Steller won a maiden race on July 29 and finished third in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 3. In France, Blue Steller was stakes-placed in a minor race at Longchamp in Paris last April.

The shippers face a home team consisting of Sea to See and Sir Alfred, both stakes winners at Bay Meadows. Sea to See won the Half Moon Bay Stakes on Sept. 29, a race that put him on schedule for the Bay Meadows Derby. Trained by Bill Delia, Sea to See has won four races on turf. Sir Alfred was third in the Half Moon Bay Stakes, but won the Grade 3 Ascot Handicap over the Bay Meadows course last June. Hoovergetthekeys won the Golden Gate Derby and El Camino Real Derby on dirt last spring, but has managed only one win in seven subsequent starts - an allowance race on turf at Bay Meadows on Sept. 10.