01/02/2008 1:00AM

Promising colts prep for Cal Derby


ALBANY, Calif. - Ten 3-year-olds entered a one-mile first-level allowance race on Friday at Golden Gate Fields, and several of them are using the race as a prep for the Jan.o27 California Derby.

The top contenders are Many Rivers, who set the pace before finishing third behind El Gato Malo in the Gold Rush Stakes on Dec. 15, and Cafe Tortoni, fourth in the Gold Rush here and third in the Real Quiet at Hollywood Park in his last two starts.

Many Rivers and Cafe Tortoni could have been entered in the six-furlong Stinson Beach on Saturday, but their connections said that Friday's one-mile race will prepare them better for the 1 1/16-mile derby.

"That's our thinking," said Bryson Cooper, who assists Jim Penney in the training of Cafe Tortoni.

"We've already got him stretched out," trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said of Many Rivers.

Gallon, who won the Gottstein Futurity at Emerald Downs in the fall, is sidelined until the spring, leaving Cafe Tortoni as the Penney barn's No. 1 hope in early 3-year-old events.

"We tried to keep our options open, nominating to the stakes, but we were glad when this race went," Cooper said. "We also looked at an allowance race down south, and [jockey] Mike Smith's agent called and said the race was coming up light - but we were already entered here."

Cooper said that getting another race over the Golden Gate Tapeta track before the California Derby also played into the decision to run Friday.

Cafe Tortoni showed speed sprinting in his debut last summer at Emerald, but he's learned to relax from off the pace in his five starts since, all routes. That could help him Friday, with Many Rivers, Sassou and recent maiden winner Searchforthetruth seemingly poised to engage in a pace duel. Ican'tremember, who also was entered in the Stinson Beach, would add to the pace pressure as well.

Searchforthetruth stretches out after a maiden victory in his third start. Drawn outside, he will likely use his sub-45-second half-mile speed to gain a good position. Sassou set a pressured pace in winning a Dec. 14 starter allowance race in his last start, running faster fractions than Many Rivers set in the Gold Rush one day later.

Somethinaboutlaura, well, you know

Somethinaboutlaura ($3.60) started the New Year in predictable fashion, scoring a 1 1/4-length victory in the $75,000 Campanile Stakes on Tuesday.

Somethinaboutlaura took the lead out of the gate and cruised through steady fractions. She got a brief challenge from Wild Promises as the field turned for home, but easily opened up on her rival, winning the 1 1/16-mile stakes for fillies and mares in 1:42.70. Holy Nova was third, another length behind.

The 7-year-old Somethinaboutlaura improved her record to 18 for 31 and raised her career earnings to $1,053,865. She has won 13 of her 15 starts in Northern California.

Somethinaboutlaura will now be pointed to the Sunshine Millions on Jan. 26.

"I want to keep her on the West Coast if I can," said Hollendorfer, who trains and co-owns the mare.

That would make the options the Filly and Mare Turf at 1 1/8 miles or the six-furlong Filly and Mare Sprint.

"We'll analyze everything," said Hollendorfer.

Russell Baze rode Somethinaboutlaura, despite suffering a twisted right ankle, bruised right shoulder, and bump on his head in a spill two races earlier. He said he just wanted to make sure Somethinaboutlaura broke alertly.

"She just keeps going out there and doing what she has to do to win," he said. "She makes my job easy. I figured somebody would be making a run at me, and I thought it might be [Wild Promises]. I was just on the better horse."

Field size up on Tapeta

In its first meet with a Tapeta synthetic surface, Golden Gate Fields experienced a boost in field size for its 32-day fall meet, which ran from Nov. 7-Dec. 22, 2007. The Albany, Calif., track averaged 8.4 horses a race during the meet, compared with 7.3 during all of 2006.

Average daily handle from all sources, including on simulcasts from other tracks by Golden Gate bettors, was $4,132,215. Ontrack betting on Golden Gate's races averaged $224,040 a day.

Comparisons with the 2006 fall meet are difficult to make because it was run at Bay Meadows in San Mateo for 46 days, from Oct. 18-Dec. 18.