01/23/2006 1:00AM

Roberts gets his duo prepped for big race

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - This is the week of the 3-year-olds in northern California, where the Grade 3, $250,000 El Camino Real Derby will be run Sunday at 1 1/16 miles.

The race has had an impact on past Triple Crown races, producing winners in each of the races, as well as two Eclipse winners and one Horse of the Year. It has also produced two Kentucky Derby runner-ups and one Belmont runner-up.

Six of the 16 nominees are likely for the race. Trainer Tom Roberts said he plans to send out an entry of Objective and Acolyte, and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said he will have two runners, multiple stakes winner Cause to Believe and Passive Income. Cause to Believe completed his El Camino preparations with a five-furlong work in 1:00.00 on Monday.

A.P. Warrior, the runner-up in the Norfolk, and Bold Chieftain are also listed as definites.

Objective and Acolyte worked six furlongs in tandem Sunday before the first race. Acolyte finished in 1:12.40 and Objective finished in 1:12.60, according to head clocker Art Lobato, who said the workers were "impressive" and added that he liked the way both galloped out.

Roberts also said he was pleased with the works.

"I didn't want them going too fast," he said. "I wanted to get them both relaxing, and we accomplished that.

"I wish the race were today," he said. "I think both of these colts are really, really doing well. It's just gone perfect so far for both runners."

By design, Objective, who is a bit quicker, broke off about one length in front of Acolyte.

"We did that so they wouldn't be going too hard at each other from the start," said Roberto Gonzalez, who was aboard Objective. "My colt relaxed nicely. We were supposed to go around [1:13]. We didn't want them to give everything. Mine did it so easy. I was pleased."

Chance Rollins was aboard Acolyte, who finished about a head in front of Objective.

"We backed off early, but he was in hand all the way," Rollins said. "[Roberts] wanted to get a good work into him but didn't want him to leave his race on the track. He galloped out really strong."

Neither colt was breathing hard upon their return to the walking ring to be unsaddled.

Gonzalez, who was aboard for the madien win of both runners, will ride Objective, who won the Hill Rise at Santa Anita in his last start. Rollins will ride Acolyte, who is coming off a maiden victory and will try two turns for the first time.

"He told me he wanted me to ride this one," Gonzalez said of Roberts. "I told him that was good, because I like this one the better of the two."

Others who are listed as possible for the El Camino Real Derby are Big Jon and Racketeer, both of whom are trained by Bobby Frankel; Direct Connect, trained by Doug O'Neill; and R Fat Man, trained by Bill Delia. Trainer Bob Baffert said he is considering Point Determined and Wanna Runner as possible entrants.

More good 3-year-olds

The El Camino Real Derby is not the only race for top 3-year-olds this week.

Frisco Star, who broke a Santa Rosa track record in his debut, and Barber, second in his second career start to Cause to Believe in the Mill Valley at Golden Gate Fields, meet in a $40,000 optional claimer at six furlongs on Thursday.

Victorina, a stablemate of Frisco Star and one of the most talented 3-year-old fillies in northern California, is being pointed to an allowance sprint on Saturday.

Seam Seeker eyes second stakes

Trainer Ed Moger Jr. said that Seam Seeker looked well following her win in Saturday's Burlingame and might run in the California Breeders' Cup Oaks at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 11.

Seam Seeker relaxed nicely off pacesetting Cinderella Liberty and finished strongly for her first stakes victory.

Crystal Event, who finished second in Burlingame in only her second start, might have been more of a factor if she hadn't checked approaching the quarter pole. Jockey Russell Baze pulled a muscle in his back when Crystal Event checked, and he had to take off his final mount Saturday. Baze tried to ride Sunday, but, after another adventurous ride aboard first-timer Darleys Gold, who veered out at the start of the race, he took off the rest of his mounts.

Traffic Update returns from break

A $62,000 optional claimer at six furlongs is the feature on a strong Wednesday card.

Traffic Update, dropping back into a sprint after a nearly 11-week layoff, looms the one to beat. Before his freshener, he scored wire-to-wire victories in a mile race at this level three back and in an $80,000 optional claimer last out. He won 4 of 8 starts last year.

Stablemates Bolted Heart and Jeffries Bay loom the primary challengers. Twentythreejaybird seems the likely pacesetter, and Rae's Totts, making his third start following a six-month layoff, will be closing late.

* Following Sunday's El Camino Real Derby, the Northern California Race Track Chaplaincy will be the beneficiary of the Hallelujah Crab Feed. No-host cocktails and a silent auction will be held at 6 p.m. in the clubhouse, with the crab, salad, pasta dinner, and dessert at 7 p.m. Tickets are $40 and are available at the Bay Meadows gift shop and customer service desk.